Make change to Australia’s skilled migration program, Canberra urged

Those graduates should be eligible for a discount on the work experience component for permanent residency under the the employer nominated scheme from the usual three years to two.

And graduates who meet relevant English language standards should also be eligible for concessions, the report recommended, as the country seeks to fill skill shortages.

The final report from the Joint Standing Committee on Migration inquiry into the country’s Skilled Migration Program also recommended that the Department of Home Affairs should change “visa conditions for the short-term stream of the Temporary Skills Shortage visa” to provide pathways for temporary migrants to permanent residency.

Additionally, “all employer nominated visas should provide the option of a pathway to permanency.”

The report comes at a time when Australia has been facing acute shortages in skilled workforce across sectors, in the wake of the Covid-19 led entry barriers into the country. Since the pandemic took hold last year, Australia has lost more than half a million temporary migrants. 

The International Education Association of Australia welcomed the “multi party endorsed findings of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Migration”, explained chief executive officer, Phil Honeywood.

Our Fortress Australia lockdown policies are now making us uncompetitive with other nations”

Australia has always relied on a robust migration program to fill much needed skills gaps and to ensure that we have a true culturally diverse community. Our Fortress Australia lockdown policies, throughout the Covid pandemic, are now making us uncompetitive with other nations who also traditionally rely on strong skilled migration,” he explained.

The report noted that consideration of the post-study work rights for international students “may be of value particularly in light of what is available in competitor countries such as the UK”.

“Already we have witnessed president Biden offering fast track migration pathways to overseas students enrolled in STEM related courses at US universities,” Honeywood added.

The Joint Committee’s report offers up a shorter time frame for international student graduates to qualify for skilled migration outcomes; this may act as a real incentive for some to see us as a more attractive study destination country. In a similar vein, the Committee were correct to identify the need for visa fee waivers and extended post study work right time frames for students who have been unable to return to Australia to take up their entitlements,” he noted.

The Committee chair, Julian Leeser MP said that “the lack of skilled migrants coupled with record low unemployment has led to major skill shortages in many sectors of the Australian economy”.

In addition, the report recommends that the government should consider granting longer three-year graduate visas in order to help graduates find suitable work.

The government should also develop a “dynamic national workforce plan”, so that the country’s future workforce needs can be duly planned for.

“The National Skills Commission should develop a new occupation and/or skills identification system for the skilled migration program in consultation with industry to replace ANZSCO. The new system should be more flexible to adapt to emerging labour market needs,” it said.

The report has also recommended that the Department of Home Affairs improve its customer service in the skilled migration program and streamline its visa application processes for applicants and employers.

We are particularly pleased to see extra incentives for very high-quality students to remain here”

In a much welcome news for universities across Australia, the Committee has recommended that universities should be exempt from the Skilling Australia Fund levy for sponsoring employers.

“We support the aim of simplifying the system, boosting incentives for the best and brightest to stay in Australia, as well as exempting universities from the Skilling Australia Fund Levy,” Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said.

“We are particularly pleased to see extra incentives for very high-quality students to remain here. These are exactly the kind of highly skilled, bright students who will make a big contribution to Australian life and productivity.”

In May this year, the Grattan Institute provided an eye-opening perspective on the paradigm shift needed in Australia’s skilled migration strategy. It highlighted the correlation between Australia’s long term financial prosperity with the intake of high-calibre skilled migrants, to help add a vital boost to the workforce, in an otherwise ageing population.

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