Federal funding to tackle engineering skills shortage

Minister for education and employment Julia Gillard said the projects would be conducted by the Australian National Engineering Taskforce (ANET) to help the education sector and the industry combat engineering shortages.The first project will study demand and supply of engineering skills, while the second will research pathways for engineering education in the vocational education and training and university sectors.Gillard said the taskforce would build on recent increases in engineering university applications to help protect the industry from future skills shortages. The study will also focus on the participation of women and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.“For many years Engineers Australia has been calling for more action to counter the inertia to increase the professional engineering skills base that is now looming as a huge constraint on further economic development of Australia,” chief executive of Engineers Australia Peter Taylor said.“The requirements for engineering expertise are only set to increase as more key infrastructure, resource and nation building projects get underway.“The announcement by the federal government to provide funding through the Australian National Engineering Taskforce to get on with the job of compiling the facts to face up to the increasingly dire outlook for building professional engineering skills capacity is most welcome. “Engineers Australia’s own research has pointed to a significant gap in the number of graduating engineers relative to the level needed for the current construction and other engineering activity being undertaken in the Australian economy.“While migration programs and uncapped university places for engineering are part of the solution, longer-term strategies are needed to ensure that all school students gain a broad base in the enabling sciences to take up the opportunity to become an engineer.“The number of students studying advanced maths and science needs to be increased, particularly female students who are severely under-represented compared to other professions.“In joining with our four partner organisations through the Australian National Engineering Taskforce, and now with the strong backing for ANET by the federal government, there is some reassurance that actions will be fast-tracked to deliver the strong and extensive professional engineering skills base that Australia must have for the future.” The taskforce will carry out the research projects this year with a report to be finalised by the end of 2010. ANET is a partnership between the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia, Engineers Australia, Consult Australia, the Australian Council of Engineering Deans and the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

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