Australia will look to the US to solve its growing skills shortage.
02 April 2012
Australian visa applications fast tracked for American workers
Australian visa applications for American workers will be processed before arriving in the country in order to relieve Australia's growing labour shortage.
The booming mining and construction industries may have saved Australia from recession but the industries' continuing growth has resulted in a widening skills gap which the country is struggling to fill. In order to address this gap, the government has announced plans to ease Australian visa restrictions for Australia plumbers, electricians and construction workers wanting to take advantage of employment opportunities in the Outback.
Under current Australian immigration legislation, American workers must have their skills assessed onshore, meaning many workers arrive in the country not knowing whether they will qualify for work in the country. The skills assessment can often take months with no certainty, resulting in a gamble many Americans judge to be too risky.
Recent research into the Australian skills market showed that 75% of the construction companies surveyed predicted they would experience major difficulties in recruiting skilled workers within the next six months. By 2015, the industry is predicted to require 75,000 workers, more than double the current level of 35,000.
The government has announced plans to overhaul the system so skills can be assessed in the US and American workers with successful assessments can begin work in Australia immediately upon arrival. Australia also plans to hold its first skills expo in the United States in the hope of attracting more skilled workers to Australia.
"The large amount of construction occurring in Australia in developing mines, railways and posts is putting huge demand on our existing civil engineering work force," said Skills Minister Chris Evans.
"Works coming into the resources industry in Australia at the moment will be among the best paid workers in the world."
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said American workers on a 457 visa would provide better job security than in the still recovering US economy and holders will be allowed to apply for permanent residency.
"There are economies and countries around the world which are facing very difficult and different circumstances to ours," said Mr Bowen.
"What's appropriate is that we work together with those countries to ensure that skilled workers who are looking for work have the capacity to fill some of those gaps we are facing in Australia."
The US, who is already Australia's largest source of foreign investment, ahead of the UK and China, has already expressed their welcome of the agreement. The America Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich said:
"This is a real win-win for both of our nations. It matches highly skilled American workers who are available with a temporary skills shortage here in Australia to make sure that the progress and growth and economic vitality continue."
However, the reaction hasn't been positive from all corners; the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) claims there is no independent evidence which suggests the skills shortage cannot be filled by Australian workers.
"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," said Ged Kearney, president of the ACTU.
"Australian workers across the nation deserve the opportunity to benefit from the resources boom, which will provide a massive jobs boon in coming years."
The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people lodge their Australian visa application with the Australian High Commission.