More businesses in Australia are being given expert advice on how to recruit semi skilled workers from overseas under the country’s Regional Migration Agreements (RMA) system.
Under the programme employers can recruit for certain occupations which are not part of the standard visa programme because there is a specific shortage of skilled labour in their region.
These include tourism and agriculture which do not come under the standard 457 visa programme.
‘This reflects a real change in Australia’s skilled migration program from one predominantly targeting highly skilled individuals to creating avenues for semi skilled migrants. For industries such as tourism and agriculture, allowing semi skilled workers is critical as many occupations within these industries are categorised as semi skilled and are not eligible under the standard 457 visa programme,’ said a Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) spokesman.
‘For example, current data from the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism indicates that in the tourist industry in Broome three of the occupations most in demand now and in the foreseeable future are bar attendants, waiters and café or restaurant managers. Allowing concessions on skill levels may enable tourism employers in Broome to use the programme to fill these gaps,’ he explained.
There are opposing views of the RMA programme. For some lowering the skill level to allow for a broader range of occupations was seen as not going far enough while others have expressed concern that lowering the skill threshold would mean that jobs that could and should be done by unskilled or under skilled Australians would be filled by migrants.
Further guidelines are due to be released soon but in the meantime staff from the DIAC’s Labour Market Branch have been travelling around the country speaking with representatives of regional areas that may be suitable for a RMA.
They have organised meetings with representatives from Australian Government agencies, national unions and industry in Canberra and Sydney to brief them on the proposed programme and give them the opportunity to provide feedback.
‘Broadly speaking, we think there are two labour market environments where RMAs can solve labour shortages. The first is regions experiencing critical short term labour needs or rapid economic growth where local labour shortages are limiting business activity. The development and ongoing operation of the Gorgon Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) project in Darwin is an example of this,’ said the spokesman.
‘The second is one where growth is being hampered by short term inelasticities in labour supply, for example, the strain on industries such as agriculture and manufacturing in the Goldfields Esperance region of Western Australia, as local workers are attracted to jobs in resources projects in the Pilbara,’ he added.
Officials have been talking with employers in Darwin in the Northern Territory, Broome and Esperance in Western Australia and Gladstone in northern Queensland. ‘Each of these areas is experiencing skills and labour shortages due to labour drain as locals move to nearby construction or resources projects seeking better pay and conditions. What’s left behind are skilled labour shortages that local employers have difficulty filling,’ said the spokesman.
‘In these areas a RMA could be an effective solution to backfill positions and strengthen the local labour market and economy while also encouraging training opportunities and initiatives for locals,’ he added.
Employers were given information on regional eligibility, the skill levels and occupations that will be available, the salary threshold for temporary skilled migrants and the training commitments that will be required.