An extensive report has backed business claims that more migrant workers are needed in Western Australia.
The report, from Edith Cowan University, and covered in WA Today,concluded that Australians in the eastern states were too reluctant to make the move west, and universities are not adequately preparing students.
Numerous WA resource companies are forking out between $7000 and $65,000 on each application to bring in an overseas worker on a 457 visa because they cannot attract workers from the east.
Lead researcher Susanne Bahn said Australian workers viewed relocating to WA as the equivalent to moving overseas and government initiatives were not enough of an enticement.
“With a lack of willing or available Australian recruits, resources companies are left with little alternative other than to plug the recruitment gaps with specialist skilled migrant workers,” she said.
While Dr Bahn is not the first to voice these concerns, it is understood that this is the first time the matter has been thoroughly researched.
During the research, Dr Bahn questioned resources companies and recruitment agents about their use of the 457 visa.
“Participants indicated that they had encountered reluctance from Australian recruits about relocating to WA,” she said.
“Moving away from family and friends, the fly-in, fly-out working arrangements, a lack of social infrastructure and accommodation with reasonable rents, and the perceived high cost of living were the main reasons.”
Dr Bahn also found resource companies sometimes required highly skilled workers who had received specialist training often not available in Australia.
Migrant workers could help up-skill the Australian workforce and better prepare graduates to “hit the ground running”.
“The resources companies want graduates that can hit the ground running, graduates who can take responsibility for multimillion dollar equipment for example,” Dr Bahn said.
“We found that there is a lack of ‘work ready’ university graduates.
“Higher education institutions need to rethink how they deliver courses that feed the resources sector to include more on the job placements for the duration of their degree.
“Highly skilled migrant workers can also pass on their knowledge and skills to Australian workers thereby training them in new and innovative practices.
“Modern Australian has been built through skilled migration and it appears that this is a trend that is likely to continue with benefits for workers, employers and the nation,” Dr Bahn said.
Unions have been outspoken in their opposition to enterprise migration agreements which would see a portion of workforces on some big resource projects being brought in from other countries.
In light of the report’s findings, national resource industry employer group Australian Mines and Metals Association is calling for wider acknowledgement and acceptance of these challenges in public and political debate on enterprise migration agreements, 457 visa schemes and temporary skilled migration more generally.
AMMA executive director Minna Knight said government figures showed that of the 45,000 new jobs in Australian mining created in 2012, 98.7 per cent were filled by Australian workers.
“However this industry study demonstrates that temporary migration schemes are still very important to Australia’s overall skills strategy,” Ms Knight said.
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