Despite being determined to provide more training opportunities for Australians, the state of West Australia has confirmed that it still needs skilled workers from overseas, some half a million in the next decade.
The state government says its top priority is to provide training opportunities for West Australians, but admits targeted migration will be an essential part of its new strategy to address future skills shortages.
Training and Workforce Development Minister Peter Collier announced the Western Australian Skilled Migration Strategy, a document that outlines the government’s integrated and target approach to address skills shortages.
‘We need to explore all options for not just increasing the participation of our local population, but also adding to the labour pool by attracting skilled workers from overseas and other parts of Australia,’ Collier said.
‘The needs of the labour force in Western Australia are very different to the rest of Australia. We cannot fill these shortages from other jurisdictions, we must look overseas,’ he added.
Collier said WA’s economy was on the cusp of another period of sustained growth, driven by an estimated $225 billion worth of resource and infrastructure projects that were either under construction, committed or under consideration.
‘Almost 240,000 new jobs are expected to be created in WA by 2017. With natural population growth and current migration levels, it is forecast that this will still leave a shortfall of about 150,000 workers required in WA in the next six years,’ he explained.
Collier said that the response to the strategy from Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans and Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Bowen was a positive one.
‘There is a general acceptance and acknowledgement on the part of Canberra that the pulse of the nation in terms of future development rests with Western Australia, and to ensure that we tap into the resources of WA we need a skilled workforce,’ he said.
The strategy, which was developed in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce (CCI) and the Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME), means delivering a more consistent and integrated planning approach to skilled migration and providing easily accessible, high quality information on skilled migration.
It also aims to be developing attraction and retention strategies to ensure WA has the skilled workforce needed to support sustainable economic growth and refining migration processes to support a more flexible and responsive migration programme.
The state government will also be implementing a range of settlement services to support skilled migrants to integrate into the local workforce and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with the Federal Government to positively influence policy direction and ensure the migration needs of WA are met.
‘It shows that the state government is engaging with the federal government to start to get what is really needed in WA, that is an increase in the numbers of skilled migrants both temporary and permanent coming into our state. There aren’t enough Western Australians to fill all of the jobs that are going to be created over the next few years,’ said James Pearson, chief executive officer of CCI.
CCI research shows that WA will need almost an extra half a million workers over the next decade.