When you think of professional services giant KPMG, engineering may not be the first discipline that springs to mind. Management consulting, or audit and assurance are perhaps the more likely candidates.
However, this may be about to change with the recent announcement of KPMG’s bulk agreement with Engineers Australia.
Aimed at upskilling its engineering workforce and boosting its credentials within the industry, the Big Four firm also hopes the agreement will help to encourage greater gender diversity among its engineering ranks.
KPMG launched its engineering advisory business in late 2015 and its expansion into asset management was signalled two years later with its acquisition of engineering advisory startup Relken Engineering. Its agreement with Engineers Australia includes a professional development program that will build on existing knowledge and provide valuable career pathways.
KPMG’s engineering and asset management business now employs approximately 140 people and provides a range of services to what it describes as ‘capital-intensive businesses’. These include organisations in sectors such as power and utilities, defence, healthcare, education, telecommunications, mining and transportation.
Its services range from risk assessments for capital programs and operating environments to strategic asset management planning, process redesign and procurement, and program and project management.
Colin Thorne, KPMG Partner, Engineering & Asset Management, described engineering as a “broad church”.
“We are involved in just about all of it, from system engineering to design and construction,” he said.
Thorne is an electronics engineer with more than 30 years’ experience in the defence sector. He joined KPMG to launch the company’s engineering advisory business. He said that despite a depth of engineering knowledge and experience within the business, KPMG is still broadly regarded as a management consultancy.
“People don’t automatically think of engineering when they think of KPMG,” he said.
“We want to change that. We also have new competition in the market as some of the large engineering firms now have advisory arms that are working in the public and private sectors.
“The partnership with Engineers Australia builds on our credentials to work in this space and also helps to build credentials internally,” added Thorne.
“When you think about the accounting discipline, the chartered accountant credential is well known and respected. Engineers Australia has the same standing and influence in the engineering profession.”
Building new pathways
Thorne said one of the key benefits of the agreement is that it provides KPMG’s engineers with relevant professional accreditation, such as Chartered Engineer and Engineering Executive, as well as recognition to achieve career progression.
“The agreement with Engineers Australia provides staff with recognition of a lifetime of skills development and achievement,” said Thorne.
“Junior engineers will also have the opportunity to get on the journey to become Chartered engineers.”
Michaela Crosbie, a Senior Consultant in KPMG’s engineering and asset management business, plans to start this journey.
Crosbie studied commerce and civil engineering at the University of Melbourne and joined KPMG as a graduate in 2017. Her role as senior consultant includes working with the Department of Defence on a range of infrastructure projects.
“My role involves project management and engineering and I apply a business lens to both,” she said.
“I help administer contracts on site, from planning through to delivery. I also work with other engineering firms.”
Crosbie is currently working on the redevelopment of the Australian Defence Force School of Signals, which is its principal communications and information systems training centre. She is also working on a facility upgrade for the Defence Force’s Simulation Training Centre.
“It’s great that KPMG has a new partnership with Engineers Australia, because it sets a clear pathway for me to becoming a Chartered engineer,” said Crosbie.
“The connection also means there’s more visibility to relevant engineering events and networking opportunities.”
Promoting gender diversity
As a female engineer in Australia, Crosbie is in the minority — just over one in 10 Australian engineers today are women.
The Workplace Gender Equality Agency has also identified a 27.5 per cent gender pay gap for professional, scientific and technical services.
These figures are top of mind for KPMG. The firm’s gender equality initiatives include a target of 30 per cent women in partnership by 2020, flexible work arrangements and sponsor programs with male partners and female staff outside the partnership.
“We are very committed to gender diversity at KPMG, but, in engineering, our numbers aren’t perfect,” said Thorne.
“This is an issue for the industry as a whole.”
“With Engineers Australia, we are working on a number of initiatives with women in STEM to help attract more women to our business,” he added.
“Also, our clients are very active in this space and gender diversity is something that organisations are taking very seriously. Engineers Australia is the peak engineering body and is very active in improving gender diversity in the profession. We want to leverage this and we see this as another key benefit of this agreement.”