RDANI Snr. Skilled Migration & Project Officer Gary Fry (third from left), with members of the Gunnedah Shire Council Economic Development Working Group: Charlotte Hoddle (Gunnedah Shire Council), Glenn Many (Many Engineering), Andrew Johns (Gunnedah Shire Council), Jamie Chaffey (Gunnedah Shire Council), Tracey Reid (impact Solutions), Scott McCalman (Jedburgh Farming), Kate Gunn (Merivale Partnership), and Scott Davies (Carroll Cotton Co).
Skill shortages continue to impact on the Northern Inland region of New South Wales, impeding economic growth and service delivery, according to Regional Development Australian Northern Inland (RDANI) chair Russell Stewart. “Skilled Migration is not the silver bullet but it is an important way in which we are upskilling our region,” he said. “We are bringing quality people, with top qualifications and experience here. Over coming months, our Armidale-based 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, I recently visited the Council Chambers Training Room, where I addressed the Gunnedah Economic Development Working Group and also met with President of the Gunnedah Chamber of Commerce Stacey Cooke McAllan,” Mr. Fry said.
“This 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.”
Mr. Fry 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. We have just nominated our last skilled migrant for the 489 sub-class visa, which is being shut down on 15 November, to make way for the new 491 sub-class visa, commencing on 16 November.
“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.”
“Our Regional Development Australian Northern Inland office is highly respected by the Department of Home Affairs, the NSW State Government, Registered Migration Agents and skilled migrants. We had so much interest in this region when we first attempted to open applications for this financial year that the click frenzy crashed our website.”
“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.”
Gunnedah was the first of a number of visits around the region that I intend to do during spring 2019, to engage with community representatives and directly to employers. I also want to encourage input from the likes of Gunnedah’s Economic Development Working Group about skill shortages, as this helps to keep our regional occupation list responsive to local labour market trends,” Mr. Fry said.