16/04/2008 - 22:00

Addressing WA’s future labour needs

16/04/2008 - 22:00

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As the federal government’s external reference group prepares to hand over its findings on a review of the 457 visa scheme, Western Australia’s Technology and Industry Advisory Council (TIAC) is preparing its own all-encompassing review of migration issue

As the federal government’s external reference group prepares to hand over its findings on a review of the 457 visa scheme, Western Australia’s Technology and Industry Advisory Council (TIAC) is preparing its own all-encompassing review of migration issues and the state’s skills shortage.

TIAC’s inquiry aims to ‘find the gaps’ in the processes that currently govern training, recruitment and migration in WA.

It will draw on a growing body of research – including reports by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA and the State Training Board – to give an all-encompassing overview of the state’s labour and training requirements.

One of the key aims of the project is to get a consensus from stakeholders on the likelihood of projects going through to completion, in order to get an accurate picture of future labour needs.

The group will also look at the impact on the WA economy of projected labour demands.

Sharon Brown, chair of TIAC’s newly-formed skills committee, says the inquiry will have a broad scope, covering migration issues and the 457 business visa, training, education and housing affordability, among other topics.

Ms Brown said most reports into the state’s skills shortage had been ‘designed in silos’, addressing a single issue or industry need.

“What you’re seeing is because of the lack of a strategy for the state overall, independent areas have tried to come up with solutions for a particular market or sector,” she said.

“We’re trying to get an economy of scale, to work out what is required. This is a good opportunity to put this together and get outcomes and a strategy that will be for the whole state, not just one area.”

Ms Brown, who is also Change Corporation’s business development director, said while previous TIAC reports had found skills shortages were more acute in particular areas, the committee did not want to limit the scope of its research.

However, she said priority attention may be given to certain industries, such as mining.

TIAC will consult with a range of groups during its inquiry, including the CCI, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy, the Department of Education Services, the Department of Industry and Resources and the State Training Board.

It also plans to engage industry associations, unions, senior public servants and academics in its research, with a final report to be launched early next year.

At a national level, industrial relations commissioner Barbara Deegan has been appointed by the federal government to investigate the 457 visa program.

The review will cover the integrity of the program, employment conditions, health and safety protection, training and English language requirements, exploitation issues and labour agreements.

In addition, a working party of industry and trade union leaders will consult with Ms Deegan, who will present a report to the government by October.

The review is intended to complement the work of the government’s external reference group, which is due to release its report later this month.

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