The skilled migrant shortage is not only affecting Australia’s small businesses but the biggest companies too. During a panel discussion at the Strategic Business Forum 2022 held in Melbourne, BHP’s Chief Financial Officer David Lamont said, “The biggest issue for us is actually not so much the cost of labour but the shortage of labour. We previously have been able to rely on immigration to assist here in Australia to offset some of the wage needs that we have, whether that’s a cleaner at a worksite all the way through to our skilled staff that we need to operate the business.” He added, “But skills and the shortage of skills is also the major issue for us, if you have a look not only directly in our own operations, but the communities that we operate within.”
When asked where he thinks all the skilled and unskilled workers have gone, Mr Lamont said, “It’s a really good question because I don’t know the answer to that … I’ve been travelling around the world recently, and I don’t know. Any economy that I go to, everyone’s struggling for labour … I’d like to find that black hole where everyone’s run to because we’re struggling to find them.”
Increasing Expectations for the Jobs Summit
There are increasing expectations for this matter to be addressed at the jobs summit held in September (before the October budget) at Parliament House in Canberra. Chief Operating Officer of Incitec Pivot, Jeanne Johns, also on the panel, was asked if she thought much would come out of the jobs summit. She stated, “It is as much about (a) filling jobs summit as jobs summit … There’s plenty of jobs to go around, and there’s plenty of pent-up demand. It’s really about the supply and how do we supply that demand.”
The hope is that Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will increase the number of spaces available in the 2022-23 national Migration Program, taking it over the planned 160,000 places.
Chief Operating Officer of NAB, Ross McEwan, added. “We should have a conversation about what type of labour we bring into Australia because it’s not just skilled labour we’re struggling with, it’s right across the board.”
While businesses large and small struggle to fill job vacancies, Western Australia has added six new building and construction occupations to their skilled occupations list, including; project builders, surveyors, building inspectors, building and engineering technicians, roof tilers, and air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics. This brings the total number of occupations on the list to 170. Western Australia’s Premier, Mark McGowan, stated, “The further expansion of the skilled occupation list to attract more in-demand building and construction workers will assist with the sector’s significant workforce needs.”
Western Australia has also introduced a new Skilled Migrant Employment Register that allows employers to search for skilled workers. Mr McGowan said, “The new register will provide an opportunity for employers to connect with skilled migrants, identifying the capabilities they need, and adding to the pipeline of skilled workers in demand in WA.”
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