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Engineers’ skills could become ‘redundant’

Engineers’ skills could become ‘redundant’ if they don’t prepare for the future

To remain employable engineers require environmentally sustainable design knowledge, expertise in new technology such as GPS positioning, drones and virtual reality (VR), and a willingness to continuously ask questions. That’s according to a new report, The Modern Engineer: What it Takes to Succeed, released today by recruiting experts Hays Engineering.

“Automation and artificial intelligence threaten to make many of the traditional and base level skills of engineers redundant (at least to a degree),” writes Megan Motto, CEO of Consult Australia, in the report’s foreword.

“Both engineers and employers (need) to consider areas for personal and organisational development to ensure they have the right skills to remain relevant in the future,” she notes.

Insights for engineers

So where should engineers focus their learning and development? “Engineers who want to do their job effectively in the coming years need to be across environmentally sustainable design and life-cycle assessment,” says Adam Shapley, Senior Regional Director of Hays Engineering. “They must upskill in the latest technology tools, including GPS positioning, survey equipment, drones, Augmented Reality (AR) and VR, and they must ensure their technical foundation remains strong.

“Entry-level candidates need a strong technical foundation as well as mathematical ability, while more experienced candidates need to gain a high level of emotional intelligence and social skills. I believe that to be successful, today’s engineer must demonstrate an appetite and aptitude to learn quickly and ask questions to keep their knowledge current.”

Insights for employers

The results also provide insights for employers. According to Adam, “When looking to attract and retain engineers, it’s important to promote the quality of work your practice produces, offer clear career paths and provide continuous on-the-job training across all levels since this is how people want to gain the skills they need.

“Employers are also advised to offer flexible working arrangements or part-time hours, make soft skills part of your selection criteria, and remember that software skills can be taught and should not hinder the hiring of an otherwise ideal candidate.”

Hays Engineering surveyed 340 engineers and held 13 in-depth interviews with industry leaders to identify what makes a modern engineer.

Key findings include:

• 72% of surveyed engineers expect to add to their skills through upskilling on-the-job;

• Upskilling in the latest technologies is of most importance, but at present such technology is only in use by a minority of engineers: GPS positioning (used by 34% of surveyed engineers), survey equipment (21%), drones (10%), and AR and VR tools (9%);

• Engineers say they need to become familiar with STEM skills and knowledge (58%), environmentally sustainable design (58%) and life cycle assessment (53%);

• 3D modelling skills are important as 44% say 2D skills will lose relevance;

• 17% say the industry is struggling to find professionals with the right level of 12D skills;

• 73% say having calculation and math skills is very or extremely important;

• 75% said making a positive contribution to the living environment helps them thrive in their jobs;

• Solving problems by creating solutions makes them proud (41%);

• 41% believe that by 2020, job opportunities resulting from infrastructure projects will rise;

• 65% hold a Bachelor of Engineering while 26% hold a Master of Engineering;

• 85% said they are responsible for sustainability, with the government (88%), clients (84%), architects (77%) and builders/contractors (66%) also accountable;

• 92% want to take more ownership of the building process;

• 86% say renewable and alternative energy will have the biggest impact on the engineering industry, followed by city expansion (85%), water management (also 85%) and population control (84%).

The research also reveals key learnings for employers:

• When considering a new job, the quality of a practice’s work has the greatest influence on a jobseeker’s decision (76%), followed by a competitive salary (74%) and work-life balance (69%);

• For 68%, work quality also retains them, followed by a competitive salary (63%) and work-life balance (58%);

• Soft skills should be in the selection criteria, with problem solving (important to 64%) and communication (51%) skills essential;

• Adaptability and interests in ongoing learning and digital transformation are important too; Software skills can be taught: 53% of engineers have been offered a role without possessing the necessary software experience, with 69% taking less than six months to upskill;

The Modern Engineer: What it Takes to Succeed is available at or contact your local Hays office.


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