Constructing engineering careers
It is anticipated that 30,000 engineers across Australia are likely to retire within the next ten years. Currently, there is a shortage of 1,000 in the roads area alone, and new graduates are not keeping up with the retirement pace.
To address the competitive employment market for engineers and technical staff, Frankston City Council introduced the Graduate Engineer Scheme in 2005. The scheme develops young engineers quickly, encourages them to consider employment with Council, and contributes to the development and retention of staff. The scheme also enables experienced engineers to pass on their knowledge through a mentoring program.
A key component is the Graduate Rotation Scheme. The three year program rotates graduates through different sections of the infrastructure department, such as engineering projects, contract and asset management, capital works and transport planning, for six to 12 months. This enables graduates to apply skills learned at university across a range of areas.
At the end of the rotation, graduates can upgrade their position with an accelerated development program.
Frankston’s Acting General Manager Assets, Ossie Martinz, said Council is developing better engineers and technical staff for the industry, keeping them longer and providing young engineers with constant challenges and interest in their jobs.
“In these days of staffing shortages, we have to constantly review the expectations of our staff and move with the times,” he said. “The generation Xs and Ys want to be challenged. They want to work in a dynamic environment, have a say in the management of their team and enjoy their work atmosphere – otherwise they will walk.”
Council Engineer, Darren Sampson, set up a training program for young staff.
“We try to make the sessions as practical as possible and bring in industry leaders to share their experience,” he said.
“Engineers and graduates also come together through the ‘Energisers Group’, which allows staff to provide input and make suggestions on how to improve the department technically, and from a social or marketing perspective.”
Clare Pepper started with Council in the graduate rotation program and has quickly moved into a position as Coordinator Transport and Infrastructure Planning. In turn, Clare is now mentoring younger staff, which makes the whole program sustainable.
“Initially there was some scepticism from senior staff about the Graduate Rotation Scheme, because of perceived difficulties to retrain new staff following a rotation,” Ossie Martinz said. “However, after the first round of rotation commenced, it was recognised and acknowledged that the scheme was contributing to staff retention as well as developing better engineers.
“With the competitive nature of today’s employment market, particularly in engineering and technical fields, Local Government has to be able to compete with larger, private companies that can offer attractive remuneration packages, to recruit and retain quality staff.
“The Graduate Engineer Scheme has enabled Frankston City to be competitive, allowing Council to appeal to the training and development requirements of young engineers, as well as providing them with the opportunity to contribute to the management of the Infrastructure Department.
“Senior staff members have also benefited from being involved in the mentoring program, and this has provided them with an opportunity to better understand the needs and wants of the younger generations, thus improving their management capabilities.”
For further information contact Ossie Martinz, phone 1300 322 322.