THE Edith Cowan University of WA has released a comprehensive report that backs business claims of the need for more skilled migrant workers in Western Australia.
Lead by Dr Susanne Bahn, Research Fellow in the School of Management, Faculty of Business and Law, the study investigated the costs and benefits of employing workers on temporary 457 business visas to address current skilled labour shortages in Australia, and more particularly, in the resource sector of Western Australia.
The report concluded that despite many in the industry first looking to source labour within Australia, the lack of interest from those in our eastern states to move west had contributed to a skills gap. It also points to a failure of universities to provide students with the required level of “hands-on training” to ensure they are “work-ready” on graduation.
The interview data collected in the study indicated that the reasons for the reluctance of Australians to relocate included moving away from family and friends, the fly-in/fly-out working arrangements, a lack of accommodation with reasonable rental rates and the high cost of living in WA.
There was also evidence to suggest that workers appeared to â€¨have unrealistic expectations about prospective earnings they anticipated would be well above their previous rates, making Australian workers an uncompetitive recruitment option.
The result is an increasing reliance by the resource sector in WA, particularly in remote areas, to recruit skilled migrant workers on temporary 457 visas. This is despite the costs incurred by the industry in bringing skilled migrants to Australia on a 457 being between $7,000 and $65,000 for each individual worker.
The domestic shortfall, and the demand for skills, means there are significant opportunities available for workers from countries such as Ireland and the UK. As the report identifies, “these foreign nationals are generally skilled, accredited, ready and keen to take up the work being offered.
Workers on 457’s pointed to a difference in work ethic in comparison with Australian industry, “explaining that the hardships experienced in recent years in Ireland and several other countries has produced expectations of a stronger work ethic.”
The national resource industry employer group, Australian Mines and Metals Association, have said the study “confirms the small but important role temporary overseas skilled workers play in ensuring resource projects are built on time and on budget, leading to increased longer-term employment opportunities for Australians and greater investment security.”
In light of this study, AMMA have called for public and political debate to acknowledge and accept the challenges faced by the resource industry in relation to enterprise migration agreements, 457 visa schemes and temporary skilled migration more generally.
AMMA executive director Minna Knight has highlighted the need for skilled workers in remote areas.
“[T]he industry study demonstrates that temporary migration schemes are still very important to Australia’s overall skills strategy,” Ms Knight said.