Eyes on the prize: creativity is the key
WHERE the bloody hell are you? could easily be the ad campaign slogan for engineers.
They’re in high demand, but the supply is tight in Australia and overseas.
Engineering is the most candidateshort profession, with the highest demand for mining and construction engineers.
In fact, resources and mining are experiencing the most intense skills crisis of any sector, with the Michael Page Salary Survey 2007/ 2008 predicting salary increases of as much as 15 per cent over the next 12 months for mining engineers, and an average salary increase of between five and 10 per cent.
We’ve reached the point where organisations and recruiters have to work more creatively to source their talent.
For most other professions, such as accounting or marketing, a recruiter starts the recruitment process by finding a shortlist of four or five candidates.
When it comes to sourcing engineers, the shortlist has no more than one or two suitable candidates. The candidate skills shortage for engineering is extreme to the point where many large mining or construction sites will have a list of job vacancies some of which don’t get filled for many months.
Within 48 hours of being interviewed by Michael Page Engineering and Manufacturing, one candidate was interviewed in Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane by three engineering consultancies - one global and two domestic.
The 26- year- old chemical engineer worked in mining and had three years experience.
For some companies, finding the right people has become a limiting factor on growth, and many other disciplines focus their energy on finding domestically- based talent, while engineering/ construction/ mining companies have become much more receptive to recruiting internationally based candidates.
Engineering is one of the most geographically mobile, highly portable skills sets. An Australian tax accountant, for example, may have difficulties working seamlessly in the UK or US, whereas an engineer can be transported where there is work.
Engineers will largely be placed into mining, manufacturing or in infrastructure ( projects) such as roads, retail, gas and water anywhere in the world.
The traditional sources of engineering talent were from western countries, but that is changing for mining in particular where South Africa, Canada, Brazil and even the Republic of the Congo can be the source for engineering expertise.
In the war for engineering talent, organisations must compete globally. Australia historically has traded on lifestyle, but with smart organisations, that’s becoming secondary. Now it’s the quality of work and the scale of projects that need to be primary attraction factors.
Currently, we are seeing an exodus of homegrown engineers due to a number of factors, including money, the scale of projects and the respect that other countries have for Australian engineers.
Areas of opportunity for candidates include Malaysia, India and, in particular, the Middle East where there is a huge level of construction. But often, these people come back home.
It’s an increasing challenge for organisations to find that talent. As a minimum, corporates need to be willing to sponsor 457 visa candidates, have Fly in- Fly Out options in remote locations and, in addition to the compensation package, sign- on and loyalty bonuses matched with attractive salaries. One 27- year- old candidate was acutely aware that she could be paid $ 25,000 more in Perth than on the eastern seaboard. But money isn’t the main incentive. According to the Michael Page Salary Survey, only nine per cent quoted financial gain as their core driving factor, whereas 29 per cent cited career advancement.
Organisations need to look at the practicalities of how to split shift work and their attraction and retention strategies. They have to have clearly defined value propositions, particularly career strategies, to sell to prospective employees.
Recruitment companies often need to be creative in finding engineering skills.
Michael Page has a global opportunities network of 149 offices across 26 countries. We keep in touch with Australians who work internationally, and when it’s time for them to return, we get in touch and often we have got them interviews before they step off the plane.
The volume of engineering jobs is enormous with one oil and gas client recently looking for 150 engineers.
It’s the tightest of all disciplines with a great mobility and candidate sharing within recruitment firms for engineers both locally and globally.
Selling sun and surf is no longer the attraction for most professionals coming to Australia.
Professionals such as engineers want to have career paths, significant projects and packages that are financially, socially and professionally rewarding.
Richard King is the director of engineering at Michael Page International