Regional industry leaders cry out for more skilled migration

The Joint Standing Committee on Migration has been holding public hearings around Australia to investigate the challenges facing businesses and organisations in hiring skilled migrants.

The committee sat in Shepparton and heard from representatives from the Committee for Greater Shepparton, as well as local health, training and agriculture businesses. Sam Birrell, the CEO of the Committee for Greater Shepparton told the inquiry Australia should launch an immediate global recruitment campaign to attract migrants with in-demand skills, as the pandemic had potentially left many without work in their native countries. Birrell went on to say that there needs to be an immediate solution to help fill job shortages, with an opportunity to recruit people who may be motivated during the COVID-19 pandemic to relocate. There is a belief that these highly skilled and motivated people could be enticed to move to a place that hasn’t been as affected by the pandemic.

This could be a perfect fit for regional communities, with numerous industries in these areas struggling to find skilled workers, including health, transport and logistics, and engineering. Regional business believe there is an opportunity for grow if they had access to more skilled employees, instead business owners are “just choosing not to grow because that would mean that there would be too much pressure back on them as the business owner,” Mr Birrell told the committee.

It was a similar narrative when representatives from Goulburn Valley Health fronted the parliamentary inquiry, noting their service was heavily reliant on skilled migrants and the lack of whom was impacting business profitability and growth. The health service is undergoing a $229 million redevelopment and predicts in the next 18 months it will need to recruit close to 450 more staff on top of the 2,000 it already employs. CEO Matt Sharp told the inquiry the service already had more than 105 vacancies in medical, nursing and allied health positions that it had been unable to fill due to the shortage of skilled workers. The service has been relying on locum and agency staff to fill the positions and from July 1 last year to the end of March, the service had already spent a whopping $9.7 million on medical locum costs.

Although there is a strong belief that educating young people for highly skilled professions and trades is important to creating long term sustainability in these regions, more work needs to be done to address the problems in the short term. Furthermore, skilled migration can actually lead to better education outcomes for young people through improved on the job training and exposure.


Skilled migration could be the key to better education
In Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, livestock equipment company ProWay relies on skilled migrants to fill roles in welding, team leadership and production supervision. Managing Director Paul Gianniotis said migrants were filling critical gaps in businesses and providing diverse knowledge to staff. He is one of the main regional businesses calling for the Federal Government to bring in more skilled migrants across more professions to help train future generations of tradespeople.

The Department of Home Affairs scaled back the Priority Skilled Migrants Occupation List to just 18 occupations when COVID-19 hit last year, sparking fears new migrants would be left unemployed in Australia. Mr Gianniotis said the list needed to be extended to accommodate gaps in regional workplaces. “Certain trades out there, particularly welders, they’re not on the critical list at the moment and they need to be,” he said.

Mr Gianniotis said he had been struggling to get one potential employee a visa for 18 months. He is not alone — a survey of 400 businesses by Regional Development Australia Riverina suggests 48 per cent of Riverina business vacancies in the last 12 months have gone unfilled, with 78 per cent of respondents reported having difficulty finding appropriate candidates for their business.

Rachel Whiting from Regional Development Australia Riverina said the lack of experienced staff in the region impacted the job prospects of younger workers. “Employers tell us they get to a stage where they can’t employ any more young people from our region. Not because of the cost, but because they don’t have enough staff to supervise them”.


Source: ABC News

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