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Hiring Skilled Migrants a Complex & Time Consuming Process For Mining Employers

Posted On August 30, 2012

The complexity of migration law and time consuming nature of the process is causing unease for employers in the Western Australian resources sector looking for skilled staff overseas. With major projects being planned for the region the skill shortage now risks impacting on the growth of the industry, and migrants are being taken on to fill the gaps.

Corporate immigration lawyer Ron Kessels has seen a rise in interest in employing staff from overseas, although believes employers are not always fully aware of the immigration laws that apply. The time invested by employers in arranging work visas, sponsorships and complex legal requirements are causing concerns to contractors needing to meet tight deadlines. Many employers are now investing in recruitment agencies to find staff for them, in a bid to save time and avoid heavy penalties associated with breaching legislation.

A survey by the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) has revealed that 55.5 per cent of large companies in Australia are struggling to recruiting skilled staff, particularly in the construction, engineering and manufacturing industries. Some 70 per cent of the 511 companies surveyed stated that they would consider hiring staff from overseas, and over half had already done so.

The industry also faces the growing tension among unions and Australian’s keen to enter the mining industry who believe foreign workers are taking jobs opportunities off locals. Companies are coming under close scrutiny from unions who are particularly active in exposing alleged visa system abusers. To avoid heavily impacting the reputation of both the organisations and immigrants employers are being encouraged to ensure that they are fully compliant with applicable laws.

The shortage of skilled labour is not a new concern for Australia’s mining sector, although resource and energy professionals believe that the size and scope of upcoming projects will overwhelm the native workforce and risk growth and investment into the industry. Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting announced last month that they plan to import 1700 workers from overseas for its Roy Hill Iron Ore project in Pilbara, Western Australia, in order to get the project completed on time and on budget.

Recent government initiative has focused on building a training portfolio to attract and retain a skilled workforce. Training WA and Skilling WA are blueprints and development plans for training delivery and skilling over the next decade, with Training Together – Working Together being the comprehensive plan for Aboriginal training. Hon. Peter Collier, Minister for Energy; Training and Workforce Development; Indigenous Affairs has pledged his commitment to making training and skilling a priority area, and will speak in more depth about government plans at the WA Resources and Infrastructure Conference this September. Over 3000 Western Australian unionists marched last month against imported workers and a lack of training in the construction, forestry, mining and energy sectors.

Kessels will join Hon. Peter Collins as a speaker at the WA Resources and Infrastructure Conference, where he will provide delegates with solutions to the practical issues faced when employing staff from overseas. The annual conference being held at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre from 12-13th September 2012 will also highlight planned major infrastructure projects and identify other concerns in Western Australia’s energy and resources sector.

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