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Offshoring Engineering Services

Offshoring Engineering Services

May 2014

An issue garnering a lot of interest recently in the Queensland Centre for Engineering Leadership and Management (CELM) circles has been the trend towards offshoring of engineering services, and the potential impact on our industry here in Queensland.

A CSIRO report published in 2012 [1] stated that there were an estimated US$81.4 billion worth of services offshored in 2005, forecasted to grow to US$252 billion by 2010 [2].  The report also found that the pressure to offshore is likely to intensify into the future as the labour force of the developing world becomes more skilled, technology enables more jobs to be done remotely and labour costs in developed countries like Australia remains high.

A recent report into engineering in Queensland [3]also found that one of the key risks facing the engineering industry in Queensland is the increasing capacity of the engineering marketplace to procure engineering services from low cost countries.  This report found, however, that pressure applied more to the less complex end of the engineering services spectrum, and less to high value, idea intensive, creative engineering that is much harder to ‘package up’ and ship offshore.

This begs the question - what should I be doing as an engineer to adapt to this changing environment? When this question was put to the CELM fraternity, it became clear that attributes other than just technical skills will become increasingly important.  Key skills identified included:

  • Project management and leadership skills, particularly the ability to delegate effectively, to maintain a big picture understanding of what your client is trying to achieve and to facilitate connections on behalf of your client.
  • Communication skills, particularly the ability to listen to what is really required, and to explain implications and difficult technical issues in clear terms.
  • An understanding of the content and applications of the laws around your industry,  an understanding of the practical issues of process and applications in your area, and an ability to synthesise this on behalf of your client.
  • Cross-cultural intelligence, including the ability to speak foreign languages, work with diverse groups of people and cultural awareness and sensitivity.

One of the real strengths of the engineering fraternity in Queensland is our ability to innovate and adapt processes to our clients’ needs.  Maintaining and building on this will become increasingly important if this trend towards offshoring engineering services continues.

Article supplied by Emma Charlton, CELM committee member and Jason Gallagher, CELM committee member.


The Centre for Engineering Leadership and Management (CELM) aims to encourage and empower engineering team members for significant leadership and management roles. The Queensland chapter committee is based in Brisbane, and welcomes engagement from Engineers Australia members throughout Queensland.


1. Hajkowicz SA, Cook H, Littleboy A. 2012. Our Future World: Global megatrends that will change the way we live. The 2012 Revision. CSIRO, Australia.

2. Hajkowicz SA, Cook H, Littleboy A. 2012. Our Future World: Global megatrends that will change the way we live. The 2012 Revision. CSIRO, Australia.

 3. Schaffer, G 2012, Engineering Queensland – The Smart Engineering State - A proposal to build Queensland as a global centre of excellence for specialised engineering services, Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist, Queensland Government, Brisbane.


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