Engineers Australia is relying on the expertise of its membership to revamp the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) codes, informing future engineering policy and trends.
Is your engineering field underrepresented in industry trend reports and labour market statistics? It could be that it falls under a specialisation outside the ANZSCO system.
Designed as a skill-based classification, ANZSCO allows the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to collect and disseminate official occupational statistics.
Categorising the population by occupation, ANZSCO is used in a range of data sets – including the census of population and housing – informing government policy and initiatives such as skilled migration programs.
“Different analyses are conducted on those data, forming the backbone of labour market and migration statistics, along with job vacancy reports,” said Engineers Australia Policy Advisor Louis Field.
To accurately reflect the labour market, ANZSCO codes require review and revision. With 2023 designated as the year for the latest update, engineers have an opportunity to influence the future of the profession.
When it comes to engineering, ANZSCO provides an overview of the work done in engineering practice – helping Engineers Australia compile bi-annual vacancies reports containing valuable information about engineering trends.
ANZSCO also captures how engineering has evolved over time, with emerging disciplines grouped in specialisations. These specialisations can then transform into individual occupations when the cohort size is large enough.
For example, civil engineering – the largest engineering classification in Australia – contains the specialisation of hydraulics engineering. As we begin to transition to a net zero economy, employment data also shows a significant growth in demand for electrical engineers.
“The ANZSCO codes allow us to see that evolution, which is really crucial – both for recruitment and to confirm the trends,” added Field.
Insights gleaned from this data are important components in analysis and policy settings.
“They guide policy makers and policy advisors such as Engineers Australia in understanding what’s happening, and how and what should be done,” said Field.
Reflecting reality in the field
With technology moving at an ever-increasing pace and new types of work constantly emerging, not all occupations are represented, with many falling under the category Not Elsewhere Classified (NEC).
“There are over 3700 professionals under ‘Engineering Professional NEC’ doing very different types of work, from fire safety engineers to mechatronics engineers and acoustic engineers,” said Field.
“That makes it challenging to identify which specialisations are rising and declining in the labour market when performing an analysis of job vacancies.
As a field that’s both impacted by and responsible for the development of new technologies, the nature of engineering makes it difficult to update ANZSCO codes in real time to capture emerging categories such as quantum engineering. However, too many ANZSCO codes can be similarly problematic when it comes to providing an overview of current markets.
“It’s very much a trade-off between having too many categories, and the potential of aggregating or disaggregating in order to identify trends,” said Field.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure the specialisations with a significant engineering cohort are represented in ANZSCO codes.”
Reconfiguring the codes
In its quest to ensure the engineering ANZSCO codes are as accurate and reflective of the current market as possible, Engineers Australia is casting a wide net.
“We’re involving all our internal stakeholders, particularly the Office of the Chief Engineer, which develops all our engineering standards of practice,” said Field. “We’re also collaborating as much as possible with all the colleges, technical societies, division committees, industry groups and other key bodies.”
However, the input of all Engineers Australia members, as well as non-members, is vital to the process.
“Relevant, quantitative data is needed to create any new code scope,” he said. “They are the experts on the ground, and they’ve got the experience and industry knowledge.”
Engineers Australia also plans to flag emerging fields that can be kept in mind by the ABS, including new specialisations under the Australia, United Kingdom, and United States (AUKUS) partnership.
“AUKUS will automatically introduce new types of engineering specialisations, including nuclear engineering, that don’t currently have an ANZSCO code,” said Field. “With AUKUS planned to take around 30 years, we want to ensure these specialisations are added at the right time as it grows.”
The four-part ANZSCO consultation process kicked off in October 2021, with round two commencing today.
From 15 June to 31 July, engineers are encouraged to inform Engineers Australia of their field and specialisation, with 50 engineering ANZSCO codes up for review.
“Consultation two is the most important because it’s the most engineering heavy,” said Field.
“What is submitted to the ABS depends on the feedback from our members, which is why their input is so important.”