Premier Mark McGowan is calling on the Commonwealth to ramp up skilled migration as his government launches a new register designed to connect WA companies with overseas talent.
There are now more jobs on offer in WA than there are unemployed West Australians and unprecedented labour shortages are crippling growth across industries – as well as basic service delivery in areas like health and aged care.
Launching on Tuesday, the new Skilled Migrant Employment Register will allow foreign workers living either overseas or interstate to record their interest in relocating to WA.
WA businesses will be able to search the register for workers with qualifications or skillsets they require and then offer to sponsor their visas.
The online tool comes as the McGowan Government added a further six occupations to the Skilled Migration Occupation List: project builders, surveyors, building inspectors, building and engineering technicians, roof tilers and air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics.
After returning from an overseas recruitment drive targeting nurses, doctors and tradies earlier this month, Mr McGowan revealed he had requested an increase to the 160,000 places pencilled in for the national migration program in 2022-23.
That figure was set by the Morrison Government as part of its pre-election Budget but is likely to be adjusted by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese as part of the incoming Labor Government’s first Budget in October.
“I have asked the Federal Government to increase the overall cap on the permanent migration program to allow for an increased State Nominated Migration Program (SNMP) for WA and for additional employer sponsored visas,” Mr McGowan said.
“I understand the previous Federal Government had set the planning figure for 2022-23 at 160,000 places.
“I believe there is an opportunity to revise this figure upwards to account for the significantly different economic conditions Western Australia and the country are facing.”
The Business Council of Australia has called for the migration cap to be increased to 220,000 places for the next two years but Mr McGowan declined to nominate exactly what number he had in mind.
State nomination provides foreigners applying for skilled work visas in WA with additional points towards their application – making it easier to obtain approval.
Mr McGowan wants WA’s allocation under the SNMP more than tripled to 10,000 in 2022-23 – which would represent half of the 20,000 overall places available across the entire country under the current settings.
In addition, the Morrison Government had planned to allow 30,000 employer sponsored visas in 2022-23 – a figure Mr McGowan also wants ratcheted up in recognition of a national unemployment rate that reached 3.5 per cent in June.
“Our economy continues to perform incredibly well – as it has over the course of the past two years – but we must do everything we can to assist industry to secure the skills they need,” he said.
“The additional permanent migration allocation would help address the acute challenges we are facing, enabling the WA economy to continue its incredibly strong performance throughout the course of the pandemic.”
The call for more migrants comes as it can be revealed building and construction apprenticeship commencements have more than doubled over the last two years to reach 2708 in May, while electrical apprenticeship commencements have also nearly doubled to 2232 in the same period.
There are now more than 10,000 tradie and electrical apprentices currently engaged in WA – an all-time record.
Despite the strong training figures, the most recently jobs vacancies figures found there were 13,200 more positions available in WA than there were unemployed West Australians in June.