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Getting Skilled Migrants to Where They’re Needed

Skill shortages continue to impact our region, impeding economic growth and service delivery and although Skilled Migration is not a complete solution, it is an important way in which we are upskilling our region. The program brings quality people, with top qualifications and experience here to our region to fill skill shortages and drive population growth as they establish their lives along with their families in our communities.

Over the coming months, our Senior Skilled Migration & Project Officer Gary Fry will be getting out to communities throughout the region to improve awareness of the skilled migrants we attract and how employers can connect with them. Our skilled migrants have made a considerable contribution to the Tamworth economy but we would like to see a greater proportion of them employed in our skill shortage hot spots, like Gunnedah, Narrabri and Moree.

On the invitation of Gunnedah Shire Council’s Economy Development Manager Charlotte Hoddle, Gary recently visited the Council Chambers Training Room, where he addressed the Gunnedah Economic Development Working Group and also met with President of the Gunnedah Chamber of Commerce Stacey Cooke McAllan. It was a good opportunity to connect with the broad range of Council and business community representatives who make up the Working Group, which is Chaired by Gunnedah Shire Mayor Cr. Jamie Chaffey.

Mayor Chaffey called on other community and business representatives to contribute to the skills shortage conversation, towards constructive action on local and regional levels. “It is critical that Chambers of Commerce, professional and training organisations and councils in each local government area are part of the conversation to identify the skills needed for each region. There is a place for skilled migration to those necessary qualified positions that have proven difficult to fill and are a roadblock to providing vital services in regional communities,” he said. “We need to welcome qualified people from other nations who can add great value to our social, cultural and – importantly - our economic futures.”

Gary encouraged the input from Gunnedah. “Both the Economic Development Working Group and the Chamber of Commerce were welcoming and attentive as I gave a quick but comprehensive overview of our Skilled Regional State Nominated visa program and the changes it is undergoing. The Skilled Regional State Nominated visa is a Permanent Residency (PR) pathway, so high-level requirements must be met for eligibility. Recipients (of the 489 visa) have had to live regionally for 24 months and work full-time hours regionally for 12 months to be able to apply for a PR visa, with their temporary work visa having a four year duration. The new visa 491 will be extended to five years, with three years of conditions to meet before PR eligibility.”

“The skilled migrants we attract to this region have no safety net; there is no welfare or Medicare for them. It is so important for them and any employer struggling to find the skilled workers they need that we help raise awareness about how they can connect.”

“One industry that has been a clear-cut beneficiary of our skilled migration program has been the aged-care sector. Resident aged-care facilities are required to have Registered Nurses on duty. Due to a skill shortage in the field, that requirement would have caused an aged-care crisis, if not for skilled migration. Other industries we have attracted skilled migrants for have included hospitality, metal and timber trades.”

Employers and groups like Gunnedah’s Economic Development Working Group are also encouraged to get into contact with Gary about skill shortages, as this helps to keep our regional occupation list responsive to local labour market trends.

Gunnedah was the first of a number of visits around the region that are planned before the end of the year to engage with community representatives and directly with employers. The next information sessions will be at the Narrabri and District Chamber of Commerce meeting on the 10th of October and in Tamworth on the 19th of October. For further details, contact Gary on gfry@rdani.org.au or 6771 0700.

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