Sec­tor cry­ing out for fem­i­nine touch

En­gi­neer­ing skills short­age wait­ing to be fixed, writes

The Courier-Mail - Career One - - Classifieds -

EN­GI­NEER­ING grad­u­ates en­joy one of the high­est start­ing salaries and best job out­comes of all new grad­u­ates, yet the in­dus­try still strug­gles to at­tract enough pro­fes­sion­als to meet de­mand.

Just 6000 en­gi­neer­ing stu­dents grad­u­ate from Aus­tralian univer­si­ties each year, forc­ing the in­dus­try to im­port dou­ble that to al­le­vi­ate chronic job short­ages.

En­gi­neers Aus­tralia pres­i­dent John McIn­tosh says while the de­cline in stu­dents tak­ing up maths and sci­ence is partly to blame for the skills short­age, the pro­fes­sion also un­fairly suf­fers a poor rep­u­ta­tion.

“We’ve got the nar­ra­tive wrong,” McIn­tosh says.

“Peo­ple think of (en­gi­neers) as grubby old boys and their toys. They don’t see en­gi­neer­ing as an at­trac­tive ca­reer op­tion, whereas I think it’s one of the most worth­while things that you can do.

“En­gi­neers build happy, healthy com­mu­ni­ties – peo­ple have en­gi­neered teeth and en­gi­neered knees and hips, they’ve got cochlear im­plants. Ev­ery­thing in­volves en­gi­neer­ing.”

To help meet de­mand, the Univer­sity of New South Wales is at­tempt­ing to at­tract more women to the in­dus­try, this year tripling the num­ber of its Women in En­gi­neer­ing schol­ar­ships to 15.

“En­gi­neer­ing has one of the high­est start­ing salaries, and the av­er­age start­ing salary for en­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ates has been ac­tu­ally higher for women than for men,” UNSW dean of en­gi­neer­ing Mark Hoff­man says. “Name an­other pro­fes­sion where that’s hap­pen­ing.

“We can’t win at the in­no­va­tion game if half of our po­ten­tial en­gi­neers are not tak­ing part in the race.

“This isn’t just about plug­ging the chronic skills gap – it’s also a so­cial good to bring di­ver­sity to our tech­ni­cal work­force, which will help stim­u­late more in­no­va­tion.”

Grad­u­ate Ca­reers Aus­tralia re­search shows the av­er­age start­ing salary for male en­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ates is $60,000 and $63,000 for women. The re­search also shows en­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ates are more likely to be in paid em­ploy­ment than the av­er­age Aus­tralian grad­u­ate.

Elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent Nisha Prad­han, 20, had a pas­sion for maths and sci­ence at school and chose en­gi­neer­ing af­ter see­ing a smart wheel­chair built for peo­ple with com­plete paral­y­sis that can be pow­ered by brain waves. “I was so over­whelmed by the idea that, as en­gi­neers, we could com­pletely change the way peo­ple live their lives,” Prad­han says.

“A lot of girls don’t un­der­stand what en­gi­neer­ing is – they think it’s get­ting down and dirty and fix­ing a car. I love what I’m do­ing in en­gi­neer­ing … and I’ve never had to do any kind of work that would get me dirty.”

MO­TOR­ING AHEAD: Nisha Prad­han, an elec­tri­cal

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