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The need to address the shortage of engineers was a matter of economic security said Dean of Engineering at Monash University Professor Elizabeth Croft.

Dearth of engineers hurting the economy Professor Elizabeth Croft: ‘Mining companies are screaming out for engineering talent and they can’t find it.’

Professor Croft made a rallying call to delegates at The International Mining and Resources Conference and Expo (IMARC) in Melbourne to push the Federal Government for more engineering places at universities.

Australia was under producing as a nation and there was a shortfall of 6100 engineers a year, she said.

“Mining companies are screaming out for engineering talent and they can’t find it,” Professor Croft said. 

“They are recruiting all around the world and they are competing with other nations for talent (those nations) want to keep at home.

“The thing I worry about is that with all of these opportunities, more and more as a country we are going to have to outsource the work to foreign engineering companies.

“Instead of having our engineering companies and our kids being able to take the opportunity to do those jobs, we are going to have people from all over the world eating our lunch.

“It’s a matter of national economic security to increase the number of engineers that are being domestically produced.”

Over the past 10 to 15 years the number of women entering universities had increased, but universities had failed to lure those students into engineering, Professor Croft said.

“We did not do a good enough job of explaining the value proposition and the opportunities to women to study engineering,” she said.

In 2017, the Federal Government capped the funding for engineering students at universities nationally Professor Croft said.

“Monash, the highest ranked Engineering faculty in Australia, was turning away prospective engineering students, who were taking their second and third options,” she said.

“We are at risk with international engineers coming over and the number of places declining for domestic students, so we have hit a perfect storm where we can’t produce any more domestic engineers because the Government has capped funding for domestic places; we are at risk of not having enough people coming from overseas and the growth in the opportunities is exponential.

“If you look at the growth curve for infrastructure development in Australia it is amazing. There is so much opportunity in infrastructure, in rail, the recovery of the mining sector, clean energy, biotech (which) requires us to deliver high-quality, trained engineers.

“My hands are tied, and I need industry help to make the case, so we increase the number of engineers graduating.

“I need the sector to take this message to Government. We are ready to do it; we have the facilities.”

The Victorian Government sponsored the Next Gen Programme at IMARC this year. The programme gave students, graduates and young professionals the opportunity to meet and be inspired by the diverse range of professionals working across the mining sector.