Are Australians being overlooked in favour of foreign skills?

The Resource Channel

A new study suggests that there is a wealth of skilled Australian workers that are being overlooked in the rush to import overseas labour through various visa schemes.

That assessment was part of newly released findings from a pilot model to create a regional fly in, fly out (FIFO) hub in South Australia.

Working in collaboration with the District Council of the southeast region of South Australia, the pilot was developed and facilitated by The Resource Channel, a leading jobs website for the Australian resource sector.

Managing director of The Resource Channel, Jody Elliott, says the pilot has not only demonstrated the high level of interest in the southeast region to engage in FIFO, but has also identified skills highly aligned to mining and resource construction demand.

“The outcome has been a comprehensive report for the region, which will very quickly enable employers to assess that the region offers the types of skills they require. Because we also include an analysis of airport and airline capability, it offers a quick, simple and effective option for employers to move in and commence recruitment,” Elliott said.

“In the wake of the recent controversy over the importation of thousands of workers via the 457 Visa scheme, it was interesting to identify the number of skilled and motivated workers located in regional areas such as this. I am certain that would be replicated in a number of regional areas across the country.”

The Resource Channel has identified a number of outcomes as highly relevant to the mining and resource construction sectors.

These include the fact that 47% of all survey respondents are trade qualified (with the majority of trades suited to both operational and construction project requirements), 34% have relevant Operator/Driving skills and licenses, and 24% have had experience working in the industry – 9% of those current.

Approximately 72% of all respondents indicated they are very interested in FIFO from the region, with 62% saying they would consider travelling between five and eight hours to reach a site, the maximum time offered in the survey.

Respondents also indicated a preference for working longer stints away, which aligns with construction rosters and where the greatest demand for skills and labour is.  Recent reports indicate that some 6,000 jobs have gone to foreign workers working on construction in the past 12 months. 

Approximately 66% of respondents indicated they lived within one hours driving distance of Mount Gambier Airport.

“Respondents cited the ability to do FIFO work without relocating as the most appealing factor of the FIFO Hub Initiative. This, together with the age profile and the average number of years in the current industry for survey respondents, suggests there is a significant opportunity for an employer or employers to engage a highly skilled, experienced and stable Australian workforce,” Elliott said.

The region also has a high percentage of potentially eligible candidates for the National Apprenticeship Program, meaning employers can supplement recruitment for experienced trades and operators with adult apprentices from the area.

The model enables future employees to retain their home base where their families, friends and support infrastructure exist, and at the same time, alleviates pressures on other mining locations already struggling with the supply of housing and infrastructure.

Elliott claims the southeast of South Australia is a logical location to pilot the program because it boasts outstanding trade, engineering and operator skill sets from the transport and logistics, building and manufacturing industries.

“There is no excuse for employers seeking trade, operator and engineering skills – for both construction and operational requirements – not to explore the option in the region further, particularly when the alternative touted is to bring in overseas labour,” Elliott said.

A copy of the report has been released to the federal government.

“The government can now utilise the report outcomes to demonstrate to employers that, with some effort, many of the required skills can be sourced from within Australia,” Elliott said.

“While we are not against bringing suitably skilled workers to Australia to meet industry requirements, it would be a tragedy if local workers were not offered the same opportunity. People with the right skills and a desire to do this work are here – right on our doorstep – please don’t ignore them.”

By Jody Elliott

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