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Skilled migration key to rebalancing workforce needs


11 December 2023

Master Builders Australia welcomes the focus on filling skills shortages in the Government’s migration strategy released today but a sharper focus on the trades required to tackle the housing crisis is needed.

CEO Denita Wawn said labour shortages remain the biggest source of cost pressure and disruption for the building and construction industry. Skilled migration is one of the key ways to release that pressure.

“A streamlined and well-functioning visa system will attract high-quality migrants to Australia.

“We need skilled migrants now more than ever in the building and construction industry if we are going to meet the Housing Accord and net-zero targets.

“With a need of half a million new workers in the next 3-5 years, the domestic workforce simply cannot meet these targets in the short-term and skilled migration will play a key role in plugging that gap.

“The Government is heading in the right direction and we look forward to continuing to work closely with them to tackle challenges faced in our industry.

Master Builders welcomes the creation of the Skills in Demand visa and tiered pathways but is disappointed with the exclusion of skilled trades from the Specialist Skills pathway.

“While we recognise that skilled tradies are eligible for entry via the Core Skills pathway, there is an inconsistency between the earning potential of these roles and the tier they are in.

“By bumping skilled trades down into the second tier (<$135,000), we hope this does not cause confusion for tradies internationally who earn above this threshold.

“In the meantime, effort to reduce visa processing times under the Core Skills pathway is welcomed,” Ms Wawn said.

“The cost and wait times for skills assessments act as a deterrent for many skilled workers who ultimately end up choosing another OECD country with far better streamlined processes.

“A better approach to skills recognition and assessment is vital. We need workers who are qualified and recognised to be out on the tools now, not in six months’ time,” Ms Wawn said.

Master Builders Australia has long-advocated for a long-term migration planning model to be developed to continuously monitor and respond to changing skills needs.

“We welcome the multi-year planning model proposed and hope it will make the pathways to permanency clearer and easier to follow,” Ms Wawn said.

Master Builders continues to hold some concerns about proposals to allow skilled migrants to move between employers and that may act as a disincentive for business.

“We are of the view that employers who poach skilled migrants domestically contribute to the upfront costs of employing skilled migrants by the initial employer.

“We will work with Government to ensure the right balance between migrant mobility and employer needs is carefully struck,” Ms Wawn said.

While the focus on ensuring migrant rights are protected and, importantly, clearly communicated to them, Master Builders stressed the Government’s Closing Loopholes Bill, partially passed in last week, will make workplace relations law in Australia all the more complex for businesses and the workers they employ.

“This is another example of Government taking valuable steps in one direction, only to be snapped back to square one by complex, costly and unfit-for-purpose legislation,” Ms Wawn concluded.

Media contact:
Dee Zegarac
National Director, Media & Public Affairs
0400 493 071

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