Rail diploma tackles engineering skills shortage

Man fixing a train
Man fixing a train

Australia's first engineering rail diploma

The Australian Maritime College (AMC) and Engineering Education Australia (EEA) deliver the first nationally recognised engineering qualification specifically for rail.  

Close up of engineer's hands on track

Faced with a growing skills gap in the rail sector, EEA had been asked by Transport for NSW to develop a course that would provide rail employees with a better understanding of the issues and fundamentals of track engineering. 

Getting tertiary institutions to understand the need for a rail-specific course was not easy.  Eventually, EEA leveraged an existing relationship with AMC, a specialist maritime institute within the University of Tasmania. 

Together they designed and deliver a two-year, part-time program. The national program has been designed so students across Australia can continue working while studying.

Students are assessed according to the standards and specifics of the network where they are employed. 

“This course has been designed by industry based on their needs and delivered by industry experts,” said Martin Crees-Morris, AMC manager of the diploma's course development team. 

“As far as industry are concerned, it’s got credibility. 

“We’re often asked, what is a maritime college doing offering a rail diploma? The answer is, we’re not rail experts, we’re enablers with the will and support to make the program happen.” 



Plugging a critical skills gap

The course opened in 2018 with little fanfare. It focused on attracting:

  • rail employees with a trade Certificate III and above
  • engineers who had moved  from other industries and want to hone their rail skills
  • long-time workers looking to formalise their knowledge. 

This year, AMC has expanded its intake by offering the program as an elective for undergraduates in traditional engineering degrees. 

“By opening up the engineering diploma to undergraduates across Australia as elective units, we can build numbers and highlight rail as an in-demand sector,” Alicia Perry, AMC Industry Placement Coordinator said. 

It’s a welcome move for the rail industry which has a critical skills gap that threatens the delivery of $155 billion of planned rail investment over the coming decade. 

Going forward AMC and EEA are collaborating on a similar diploma program for signalling. 

The program will be made up of 16 micro-credentials which together could contribute to a university degree. The bite-size chunks allow industry to upskill workers in specific areas.   

Flexible delivery and tailored assessment

The Diploma of Engineering Infrastructure (Rail) includes live webinars held during lunchbreaks and taped so they can be accessed outside work hours. Lecturers are available for virtual one-to-one conversations. 

For employers, the diploma offers a nationally recognised qualification so they can better understand the knowledge level of employees and potential recruits. 

Industry feedback has been positive. Companies such as Queensland Rail, and BHP which began sending two or three students, increased numbers once they saw the results. 

The program now takes an average of 100 students a year. Numbers are limited to maintain quality. 

“The biggest issue we have is finding expert lecturers,” Martin said. 

Learn more EEA and UTAS’s Diploma of Engineering Infrastructure (Rail).