The engineering profession is facing an unheralded crisis.
According to Frank Tudor, the head of WA energy utility Horizon Power, many graduates are finding it increasingly difficult to secure full-time employment and are faced with an increasingly uncertain future.
The number of engineering jobs has rapidly declined since the height of the mining boom, as a result of the transition from construction to production. Graduate employment for engineers hasn't been this low since the 1992/93 recession.
The shrinking job market has intensified job competition and there has also been a dramatic reduction in the number of available work experience placements needed for graduates to gain the necessary qualifications to graduate.
The University of Western Australia's Deputy Vice Chancellor (Community and Engagement) Professor Kent Anderson agrees the engineering profession in Western Australia is at a critical point.
"Western Australia has been a world renowned centre for training some of the best engineers, exposed to the cutting edge of developments and grounded in real world practice; but maintaining this world's best practice depends on being able to place trainee engineers in 'work integrated learning' placements with leading firms," Professor Anderson said.
"The engineering profession is globalised and too many graduates have to move to the eastern states or overseas to find work."
To help combat this crisis, Horizon Power has partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Engineers Australia in an industry first training program for graduate engineers. The '[email protected]' Power Engineering Training Program aims to help graduates by providing them with the all-important entry step into the profession.
Mr Tudor said it is important for the industry to take responsibility to support graduate development to enable engineering to support and drive innovation, and for engineering as a profession to grow with the industry.
"Horizon Power is committed to the continual growth and development of the profession, and as such we are delighted to be collaborating with the CCI WA and Engineers Australia to provide career pathways and opportunities for the next generation of engineers.
"Horizon Power is proud to be driving innovation in training which will ultimately benefit the industry.
"We need to develop young engineers for what is going to be one of the most exciting times in the energy industry with the rapid transformation of technology and Horizon Power's own strategy focused on incorporating much higher levels of distributed energy into our microgrid systems," said Mr Tudor.
Sanket Wankhede and Nathan Mazoue have been employed with Horizon Power for the past six months under the Training Program.
Sanket, a UWA graduate, said the training program has enabled him to gain practical on the job training which has helped him secure two long-term contract job offers.
"I am extremely grateful to CCI WA, Engineers Australia and Horizon Power for his opportunity to not only secure employment, but to also gain a range of experience in the field of power engineering.
"My placement at Horizon Power has allowed me to learn and develop the professional and technical skills which will benefit me enormously throughout my career," said Sanket.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA Chief Executive Officer Deidre Willmott said CCI WA is committed to developing the skills and experience of Western Australia's future engineers and making it easier for businesses to work with graduates.
The program benefits the industry by providing businesses with access to low-cost, quality engineers.
Businesses who are interested in participating in the program are encouraged to contact the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA.
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