Reforms to the national permanent skilled migration program, announced by the Federal Government, could provide relief to the mining industry ahead of the looming skills shortage.
In statement released this morning, Federal Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the reforms will allow the states to prioritise skilled migrants of their own choosing in order to address skills shortfalls.
The mining industry is already flagging concerns of a looming skills shortage, especially in Western Australia, as the sector continues to rebound from the global financial crisis.
According to the Minister, the reforms would ensure the program is more responsive to the needs of industry and employers.
“The reforms will deliver a demand rather than a supply-driven program that meets the needs of the economy in sectors and regions where there are shortages of highly skilled workers,” he said.
Evans said the reforms recognise that each state and territory has different skills requirements.
“For example, Western Australia may have a shortage of mining engineers while Victoria may have a requirement for more architects,” he said.
“Under the new priority processing arrangements, migrants nominated by a state and territory government under their State Migration Plan will be processed ahead of applications for independent skilled migration.”
Under the changes, the Government will cancel and refund the applications of 20,000 would-be migrants who applied before 1 September 2007.
“These are people who applied overseas under easier standards, including lower English language skills and less rigorous work experience requirements,” Evans said.
The reforms also spell the end for Migration Occupations in Demand List, which Evans described as outdated.
It will be replaced by the “more targeted” Skilled Occupations List, which will be developed by Skills Australia by the middle of the year.
Additionally, migrants will gain points based on their qualifications, skills and experience, and proficiency in English.
“The current points test puts an overseas student with a short-term vocational qualification gained in Australia ahead of a Harvard-educated environmental scientist,” Evans said.