Rail diploma tackles engineering skills shortage

Man fixing a train
Man fixing a train

Australia's first engineering rail diploma

How a maritime college helped Engineering Education Australia (EEA) deliver the first nationally recognised engineering qualification specifically for rail.  

Close up of engineer's hands on track


Faced with an urgent need for more skilled engineers to help deliver a massive rail investment pipeline, Transport for NSW asked Engineering Education Australia (EEA) to develop a course that would provide a sound understanding of the issues and fundamentals of track engineering. 

EEA took the idea to a number of tertiary institutions but failed to garner interest. Eventually, it leveraged an existing relationship with the Australian Maritime College (AMC), a specialist maritime institute within the University of Tasmania. 

Together EEA and AMC designed and delivered a national, two-year, part-time program based on industry needs and delivered by industry experts. The program was designed so students can continue working while studying and are assessed according to the standards and specifics of the network where they are employed. 

“As far as industry are concerned, it’s got credibility. ,” said Martin Crees-Morris, AMC manager of the diploma's course development team. 

“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, which opened in 2018, 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. 

In 2022, AMC expanded its intake 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).