Industry projections from the Australian employment sector show Australia will need 1.3 million extra workers over the next five years, including almost 200,000 more workers for the construction sector. However, a recent Senate enquiry into the shortage of engineers found that Australia is training fewer than half the engineers it needs and the skills shortage is preventing some construction projects from going ahead.
The current immigration policy assesses workers’ skills over a period of months in Australia, before they start working. This means waiting months between entry and starting work and even then, many do not pass the test. Under the new policy, workers would be evaluated in the US before their arrival. With US unemployment still above eight per cent, the change in policy provides a far more appealing opportunity for Americans to travel to Australia for well-paid work.
Some Australian officials are enthusiastic about a plan that might fill the skilled labour shortfall, but unions say an overseas recruitment initiative is premature and claims of skills shortages should be independently investigated first. Australian Council of Trade Unions President, Gerardine Kearney said there had been no independent evidence to back up claims that there weren’t enough Australian workers, “While resources states such as Western Australia have very low unemployment, workers across the rest of the country are facing increasing rates of insecure work. In fact, the latest ABS figures show that employment in the construction industry is actually falling.”
Australia is looking to different countries in hopes of attracting workers and maintains that its main priority is to keep Australians employed and overseas workers will only be used to fill the temporary gaps. Skills Minister Chris Evans said that “This is a great opportunity to address skill shortages in Australia with qualified candidates from the US. Applications expected to open from mid-April.”
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said that Australia would also run a skills fair in Texas next month to try and attract skilled workers in resources, energy and infrastructure.
While the change in policy will allow the Australian government to meet the economy’s peak demand in workforce, it is still unclear how the new policy will impact the Australian citizens over the five years and who are currently unemployed.
With TXM offices in Dallas, Perth and Sydney we’re hoping that the change in policy will benefit the people we recruit and companies we recruit for.