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Regional view | Inspiring to share

Matthew Colton

Australia - still the land of civil engineering opportunity?

Since Captain Cook landed in Botany Bay in 1770 there has been a steady migration of people to Australia in search of opportunity; today is no different. Australia’s eight states and territories are rich in natural resources, populated by early settlers in search of precious metals. More recently coal, iron ore and uranium have fuelled a mining boom; giving Australia one of the developed world’s fastest growing economies. 

This together with its relatively stable political system and high standard of life makes it an attractive opportunity for skilled economic migrants.

Australia’s population is approaching 24M. A third of the population lives in New South Wales (NSW). Sydney’s population is expected to hit 5M this year. 

Providing modern, world class infrastructure to link our population centres requires qualified and experienced civil engineers to plan, design and build them. But Australia, like the UK and other countries is struggling to attract the next generation to study science, technology, engineering and maths subjects, meaning there’s a engineering shortage. 

The Australian economy’s growth has faltered recently following the global down turn and the associated resource requirements. To combat this, NSW’s government announced the “Rebuilding NSW plan”, which confirmed infrastructure funding across NSW. 

“Rebuilding NSW” raised funding through privatising NSW’s power assets by leasing electricity “poles and wires” for 99 years with part of the proceeds committed to NSW’s infrastructure development. 

Engineers in NSW are currently delivering major metro and light rail projects including a second Harbour rail crossing, new port developments and new airports. The government funded infrastructure has also encouraged private investment for the development of residential and commercial property. 

Australia has recently seen the construction of one of the world’s most expensive projects; the Gorgan liquefied natural gas project in Western Australia. The majority of Australian projects include civil engineering expertise from the UK in their senior management teams, reflecting the world class experience of those individuals and the gravitas that our professional qualification carries in Australia. 

To facilitate development, Australia is still recruiting civil engineering talent from overseas and this is reflected in the ICE’s Australian membership increasing from 1,710 in 2013, to 2,333 in 2016. In NSW the number of ICE members has increased by over 20% in the last three years to 735 members.

If you are considering relocating to Australia, ensure your details on “MyICE” are correct and when you arrive contact the local ICE association. We arrange CPD and networking opportunities for our members.

So, is Australia still the land of opportunity? The Australian government is committing funds and raising private investment for infrastructure to facilitate its expected growth - this combined with the projected shortage of professionally qualified civil engineers certainly means plenty of civil engineering opportunity.

  • Matthew Colton is ICE New South Wales representative, and director of Management Consulting Engineering, Australia



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