18 March 2009

Australia working holiday visa appeals to UK graduates

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Numbers of Australian working holiday visa grants are on the increase in the UK, with the Australian Visa Bureau seeing a 20 per cent increase in the first quarter of 2009 compared with the same period last year.

Amanda Gripske from the Australian Visa Bureau department says: "This year we have seen a phenomenal number of Australian working holiday applications granted and we anticipate that 2009 will be the biggest number of working holidaymakers heading to Australia yet."

Taking time out from the UK to travel the world has become a more attractive option, particularly for young people eligible for the Australia working holiday visa.  As the recession is starting to bite, more young skilled workers and graduates are looking to take their gap year now while they are  failing to get the job opportunities they had hoped for.

While Australia and New Zealand have always been a hot option for young UK travellers, these destinations are increasingly becoming more luring during the global slowdown.  Not only has the exchange rate become more favourable, but also the job market for young skilled workers is proving to be resilient to the economic conditions.

Recent research from the Australia Association of Graduate Employers (AAGE) shows that young entry-level workers in Australia are revelling in a strong employment market.  AAGE's study included 200 employers with large staffing numbers, and responses from these employers indicated that there are a number of occupations not being filled by local Australian workers, and there are more vacancies this year for university-leavers in 12 out of the 14 key industries and business sectors.

"The past six years have seen a real boom in vacancies and the opportunities for graduates - 2008 was certainly the best recruiting season in Australia for a decade," Ben Reeves, AAGE's chief executive, said.

"In the last few months, things have slowed down, but the market remains relatively strong and there are plenty of employers looking to hire new graduates."

AAGE claims that recruiting in many sectors has more than doubled over the past six years, and each year graduate vacancies has grown between 9-16 per cent each year.  As a result, graduate unemployment levels are incredibly low and are half the national average (around 4 per cent).

Graduate salaries have even continued to perform well; nowadays a young skilled worker at entry-level is receiving an average of $51,750 (£24,200) in their first year of employment.

And while things are looking attractive Down Under, Mr Reeves said the worsening conditions in the UK and US are making the move to Australia all the more enticing.

"Australia reported its first quarter of negative growth last week and certain sectors, such as financial services and mining, are definitely cutting back, but things are nowhere near as bad as in the UK or the US."

Fortunately for young travellers, they can take advantage of the favourable conditions.  While the Australian Government announced this week that they would downsize its migration program to cope better with the economic downturn, young skilled workers can take time out from the UK and work in Australia through the Australian working holiday program, which has no cap on the amount of visas granted.

An Australian working holiday visa allows travellers from nominated countries aged 18 to 30 years to work and holiday in Australia for up to 12 months.  While holders of the Australian working visa cannot work for the same employer for more than six months, they have the freedom to work for any employer they wish.  And, as an added bonus, employers can then sponsor holders of the Australian working visa for a permanent residency visa through the employer-nominated skilled migration program.

The skilled migration program has become a lot more targeted to bring the skills needed most into Australia, meaning that employer-sponsored and State-sponsored applicants for skilled visas get priority processing over all other visas.  The Government has also recognised that there are a number of areas in the Australian workforce that has critical skills shortages (listed on the Critical Skills List) and applicants with one of these identified occupations also get priority processing. 

Mr Reeves says that skilled workers in the areas of health and teaching have the best chance of finding work in Australia, and the accounting industry is also seeing growth in the recruitment industry.

While emigrating to Australia is a big decision for young skilled workers, trying out the country first on an Australian working holiday visa is an attractive option. 

"It's a popular option for UK graduates and can, under the right circumstances, lead to permanent employment," Mr Reeves said.  "They come to Australia, spend time travelling, start working as temps and find they like it."

"Australia is built on migration and thrives with people from different backgrounds.  Whatever your interests, there are opportunities to carve out a career or a niche, or make an impact in a country where the population is growing," Mr Reeves said.

Working holidaymakers can also apply for a second working holiday visa if they work in regional Australian in the horticultural or construction industries for three months or more. 

If an Australia working holiday is appealing to you, and you would like to find out if you are eligible for the program, take the online assessment test through the Australian Visa Bureau website.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to Australia.

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