Employers in the resource in industry are urging the Federal Government to ignore demands from political groups and unions opposed to increasing the level of skilled migration.
The Government’s announcement on Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMA’s) was welcomed by resource industry employer AMMA.
Treasurer Wayne Swan’s budget will see an increase in workers as it lifts the level of skilled labour imports and gives companies incentives through a $558 million employment fund.
The National Workforce Development Fund, launched today, is designed to create 130,000 new training places over the next four years.
A new enterprise migration agreement for large mining projects in return for a financial contribution to train Australians will be implemented, with the aim of allowing 16,000 skilled immigrants to enter the country to work in some key regions where there is a labour shortage.
Chief executive Steve Knott said the agreements recognise the dire shortage in skilled workers in the resource industry.
“Resource employers have to fill the huge void in the pool of available workers in order to to progress projects which are vital to the economic interests of all Australians,” Knott said.
“It is disappointing to hear from people who traditionally claimed to be the champions of advocating the rights of migrants now turning around and attempting to portray hard-working migrants who want to come to Australia to work for a short period before returning home as ‘queue jumpers’.
“Skilled workers coming to our nation to participate in our workforces and assist us in building the projects vital to our economic future should be welcomed, not demonised as some form of second-class citizen.
Knott commended the changes to employment, which do not focus exclusively on foreign workers, but also on local employees.
“The changes to the EMA’s will see workers brought in to work on projects for a defined period, and in addition employers are obligated to train local staff,” Knott said.
Mr Knott said last night’s Budget announcement proved that despite pulling all the right policy levers on the domestic labour market – encouraging increased workforce participation and encouraging skills training – Australia’s labour force simply cannot meet the levels of demand in the not-to-distant future.
“Despite the best efforts of both industry and government to train more workers, the stark reality is that we need overseas workers to fill the gaps and progress our resource projects,” he said.
“Resource industry employers are already dedicating millions of dollars to the processes of recruiting, retraining and retaining Australian workers in the industry.
“Those critics who wish to now turn around and claim skilled migrants are putting Australians out of a job don’t understand that resource employers aren’t able to find enough skilled workers.
“Even with the migration reforms announced by the Gillard Government in last night’s Budget there remains a very real risk of there being a shortfall of skilled workers available to some industry sectors,” Mr Knott said.
The skills shortage in the resource sector has been growing increasingly dire, with 33 000 workers needed in Western Australia alone in the next year.
Earlier this week it was announced that 38 new projects going ahead in the Bowen Basin will require 33 000 workers over the next six years.
The influx of Irish workers, particularly trade workers, entering Australia has increased rapidly in recent years, with close to 4000 skilled migrants from places including Ireland entering Western Australia on 457 visas last year.
In the last six months of 2009, Irish workers entering Australia on 457 visas increased by 91 per cent, and changes to Australian immigration from 1 July this year will make it easier for the fastest growing emigrant group to live and work in the land down under.
Up to 50 000 Irish are expected to leave in the next 12 months, and changes to the Australian system will give more points for applicants with good English skills and those with skills in engineering and construction.
Image: WA Today