Unless Australia’s skilled migration program is overhauled, and more support provided to migrants and employers, our nation’s engineering capability is at risk.
That is the warning from Engineers Australia in its submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration inquiry into Australia’s skilled migration program.
Engineers Australia CEO Dr Bronwyn Evans said that while demand for engineers was high, the outcomes for migrant engineers proved the current system was no longer working. He said:
“We desperately need skilled migration to fill the gap between the number of engineers required and what universities and the local market can supply. Yet once here, overseas-born engineers experience higher unemployment (7.6%) than their Australian-born peers (3.7%), and only 40.9% end up working in an engineering role.”
The submission also says that attempts to use the skilled migration program to boost employment and productivity in regional Australia are also failing. Dr Evans said:
“Certain visa classes require the holder to remain in a regional location for two to four years, yet most engineering roles are situated in metropolitan areas. With fewer suitable roles available, migrants can find themselves forced to take on employment out of their engineering occupation and may be lost to the profession forever.”
Engineers Australia has made a number of recommendations to the inquiry and is urging the government to explore the reasons for different employment outcomes amongst migrants and Australia-born people in occupations targeted by the skilled migration program. Dr Evans said:
“There is a serious mismatch between the objectives of the skilled migration program and what is being achieved in the community. Unless research is done and changes are made, we will continue to fail both migrants and employers, and put Australia’s engineering capability and future economic growth at risk.”
Engineers Australia recommendations
The government considers refining the migration program’s objectives to be more specific and to consider if the migration program is designed to attract the right people.
- An inquiry be established to examine the barriers to full and meaningful employment of skilled migrants.
- The government should commission research to explore the reasons for different employment outcomes amongst migrants and Australia-born people in occupations targeted by the skilled migration program.
- Have the migration skills list revised to be more amenable to change.
- Review the points-based system to ensure it does not create unintended consequences in the supply of migrants or their employment outcomes onshore.
- Review the regional sponsorship program with consideration to freeing migrants of their obligation to remain in the regional area after a shorter period-of-time, such as six months.
- Have the National Cabinet commission skills demand studies for every industrial sector that relies on skilled migration for a sustainable labour force.
Source: Engineers Australia