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Here Come The Yanks

Everyday we read about continuing skills shortages around the globe and the subject seems to be a top topic amongst the Australian press as wherever you look in Australia there are skills shortages.

In the last month we have been asked to find butchers for the Australian meat industry as they can’t attract workers to rural areas to motor mechanics for the Brisbane area of Queensland. However health care professionals are needed throughout Australia and at present dentists and nurses appear to be the current demand centres. However it seems to be everywhere with shortages in logistics from drivers to warehousemen and now the aviation industry seems to be facing a skills crisis with pilots aircrew and cabin crew in demand.

Having scoured Europe for talent and the old Commonwealth countries there is now a plan to fill Australian jobs with US workers. This is followed by the usual union rhetoric that it might just be a ploy to import cheaper, short-term workers.
The ACTU and businesses are on a collision course over a Federal Government plan to allow workers from the United States, such as electricians and plumbers, to get their licence to work in Australia on arrival.

Federal Skills Minister Chris Evans said from late April the measure would link Australian employers with skilled workers in the US to fill skill shortages, especially in the civil engineering areas.  However the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) said the plan to fill these jobs with US workers is premature and has called for the skills shortage claims to be investigated independently.  ACTU President Ged Kearney said there had been no independent evidence to back up claims by mining magnates like Gina Rinehart that there weren’t enough Australian workers to meet the needs of future resources projects.

“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,” she said, “that such a scheme should involve labour market testing and called on the Government to immediately establish a national jobs board for the resources sector to ensure Australian employers are making every effort to employ locally.

Australian and American business groups welcomed the Government announcement today saying that despite the need for skilled workers in Australia and the availability of skilled visas, the number of US citizens taking up the opportunity to work here remains relatively low.

“In contrast to the surplus of skilled workers in the US, Australia has intensifying skill shortages and comparatively low unemployment,” said a joint statement from the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia, the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia (Amcham), and the US Chamber of Commerce.

“For example, 75 per cent of construction companies recently surveyed in Australia expect they will have major difficulty hiring skilled labour over the next six months.”

The statement said it was a real potential for skilled US workers to temporarily fill the skills gaps in Australia and benefit workers and both economies.

Under existing arrangements US workers need to be assessed onshore which can mean waiting months between entry and starting work.

Under the new skills assessment process, US workers will be assessed against Australian regulatory requirements before entering the country.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the Government was planning to run its overseas Skills Australia Needs expo in the US for the first time to attract skilled workers in the resources, energy and infrastructure sectors.

Senator Evans told reporters the assessment process was available to other nations and it was only logical that it be extended to the US.

A recent Senate inquiry into the shortage of engineering and related skills heard that Australia trains fewer than half the engineers it needs and the skills shortage is preventing some construction projects going ahead.

Engineers Australia (EA) director Brent Jackson told the inquiry’s public hearing last week that the answer included controlled skilled migration to arrest engineering shortfalls and better government infrastructure planning to manage workforce needs.

As an international recruitment agency we would like to point out to our friends in Australia the following pertinent facts

  • The USA as well as Australia is facing a skills shortages and the belief is that there are 800,000 unfilled positions within the USA that remain unfilled owing to a lack of mobility within the market place. Whilst a few may be prepared to take the plunge, the take up will be lighter than anticipated as it has been in Europe.
  • The costs will be inflationary both in America and Australia as international packages will need to be offered and we have already seen the knock on consequences of the mining sector in Australia sucking in talent from the coastal areas of Queensland through use of the chequebook.
  • Unless Australian employers pay more attention to the human aspects of recruitment any benefits will be short lived. The overall package offered needs to consider the social side of welcoming immigrants into Australia as both individuals and families. Solutions like FIFO are short term fixes, not solutions. Very few people find an isolated life style attractive.

Skills Provision sources talent from around the globe for Employers including Australia


Author: Chris Slay

Skills Provision will allow our articles/quotes to be reproduced on other formats as long as full accreditation is given.