Internationals could fill Australia’s chronic skills shortages in regions

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Regional employers in Australia should be looking at ways to attract international students to fill positions amid a chronic skills shortage, including offering graduate programs and assistance with settlement and support for families relocating from overseas, stakeholders have said.

As demand for jobs continues to outstrip supply in regional Victoria, particularly in trades and services, healthcare and medical, and manufacturing, transport and logistics, employers should be looking at international students as ”a very fruitful talent pool”, James Woodhall, senior account manager in higher education for Victoria at SEEK, told a panel co-hosted by Study Melbourne and SEEK.

“While applications per job ad are rising, employer demand in regional areas remains way above pre-Covid levels,” he said.  “It’s a great opportunity for regional employers to start exploring options to expand their talent pool,” said Woodhall.

Understanding some employers may have concerns about the visa processes and how students may fit in, some educators are already looking at ways they can better prepare the student cohort to gain employment in Australia post study, including Federation University.

The regional university, which is predominantly based in Ballarat, Geelong and southwest Melbourne, is currently redesigning all courses to ensure they have a mandatory component of employability skills, said Helen Ryan, director – Cooperative Experiential Learning and Careers.

“We are preparing students so that when they finish university, they’ll not only have the academic knowledge and degree, they’ll also have employability skills and work experience,” Ryan said.

“From an industry perspective, there’s a number of ways employers can access talent from the university, either while they’re a student as part of their course or as a graduate at the end of their degree – and we have a lot of services to help them prepare for those placements,” she said.

There are some simple ways to supporting new recruits which can help them form a commitment to working in the area and lead to higher retention rates, said Samantha Taylor, Clinical Nurse Educator Transition to Practice, Grampians Health.

“85% of nurses who come through our pathways programs stay with Grampians Health”

“The biggest support that we can provide is often around just helping people get their lives settled and making them feel valued,” she said.

“When they first arrive they have no bank account, they don’t know where the supermarket is, they don’t know how the school system works. We help them settle, find accommodation and support their families,” Taylor said.

This kind of support has paid off, said Taylor. “85% of nurses who come through our pathways programs stay with Grampians Health.”

Dealing with visa requirements and concerns about retention are common for employers, but it is worth fully investigating to see the benefits, said Steven Neild, Graduate Recruitment Lead at engineering firm GHD.

“By including the international student community in our graduate and internship programs, not only did we get a better application response, which meant we had more talent to choose from, but invariably it also meant that we were able to select better quality talent overall,” said Neild.

“It gave the business access to some fabulous female and gender diverse talent, especially in the engineering, science and project management space where there is a deficit in young female professionals coming through those degree.”

Under the current visa system, there are no work restrictions or limitations for the Temporary Graduate Visa (subclass 485), said Natalie Walsh, acting assistant director for Business, Industry, and Regional Outreach Victoria – Department of Home Affairs.

“From an employer’s perspective, there are no sponsorship or nomination requirements, nor is there any cost to you. So you can employ them based on the visa that they already hold and the length of the visa can vary depending on the qualifications and the stream that they apply under,” Walsh said.

This means TGV holders working and living in regional Victoria can apply for a second TGV for 1 or 2 years, depending on their qualification.

Given the range of other visas, including the Temporary Skills Shortage Visa, the Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional Visa and the Employer Nomination Scheme, employers need to be aware of the different requirements, Walsh said.

“If you are employing someone who is a visa holder, it’s really important for you to understand any limitations of that visa.

“There is a free service available on the Home Affairs website called the visa entitlement verification online (VIVO). With the consent of the visa holder, you can go in and check the status of their visa, which is helpful if you are employing anyone that doesn’t hold a permanent residency visa,” Walsh said.

The post Internationals could fill Australia’s chronic skills shortages in regions appeared first on The PIE News.

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