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Supply and demand for scientists and engineers.

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4 June 1998




A report on Supply and Demand for Scientists and Engineers , released today by the Federal Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs, will be a welcome addition to debate on the future of these nationally important professions.


The report is part of a new analytical series from DEETYA’s Analysis and Evaluation Division. The series is a vehicle for the wider dissemination of research and aims to promote and inform debate and further research on employment, education and training issues in Australia.


There has been some debate over recent months on whether the Australian science and engineering sectors are attracting sufficient numbers of high standard entrants. This paper looks at whether the supply and quality of scientists and engineers is adequate for national labour market requirements.


The supply of Australians trained in science and engineering is increasing. In 1996, nearly 20,000 students completed university courses in science and more than 8,300 completed engineering courses


When differential charges were introduced under the Higher Education Contribution Scheme in 1997, science and engineering were placed in the middle band, attracting higher student contributions than education and arts but lower than medicine and law. Despite concerns expressed by the scientific community, placement in this band does not appear to have affected the number of applications for science and engineering courses.


An overall fall in applications combined with a rise in enrolments over the past five years means that in many cases universities have lowered their entry requirements for science and engineering courses. However, there is no consistent pattern: in Victoria, for example, cut-off levels for some courses rose in 1998.


There is some evidence of an over-supply of new science graduates, with 34 per cent of 1996 bachelor degree graduates (excluding computer science graduates) still seeking fill-time employment by April 1997. Only 14 per cent of 1996 bachelor degree graduates in engineering were still seeking work at that point.


Looking at the workforce as a whole, engineering graduates are more likely to be working in their field of study than science graduates. An ABS survey showed that two-thirds of science graduates (excluding computing) were working in fields either unrelated or only moderately related to their original studies.


The DEETYA report concludes that there appear to be no major imbalances between overall supply and demand for scientists and engineers, judging from data on wage relativities, vacancy levels and unemployment rates. However, this overall balance coexists with shortages in particular fields or regions: there is, for example, a national shortage of mining engineers.


The paper also looks at trends in schools, where biological and physical sciences have generally experienced declining shares of enrolments.


A copy of the Executive Summary is attached. The Executive Summary and the complete paper are also available on the Internet through the DEETYA Home Page:


Copies of the paper are available from DEETYA on (02) 6240 8632.

Contact: Philip Knox, Media Liaison, DEETYA (02) 6240 9976.


Attachment to hardcopy: ‘ Executive Summary: supply and demand for scientists and engineers’ is not online please see the hardcopy or internet address

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