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Moving to WA akin to going overseas

Wednesday, 07 November 2012

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Workers from Australia’s eastern states view relocating to WA as moving overseas, with the cost of living, social isolation and remote job locations compounding the reasons why skilled workers are staying put, a new study has found.

In an industry first, researchers at Edith Cowan University (ECU) have investigated why resources companies are using 457 business visas to recruit staff from overseas – a process which can cost between $7000 and $65,000 per person – at a time when the Federal Government is offering cash incentives to entice workers to cross the Nullarbor.

School of Management researcher and project lead Dr Susanne Bahn questioned resources companies and recruitments agents about their use of the visa. She found government initiatives were not enough to entice workers to move interstate.

“Participants indicated that they had encountered reluctance from Australian recruits about relocating to WA,” Dr Bahn said.

“Moving away from family and friends, the fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) working arrangements, a lack of social infrastructure and accommodation with reasonable rents, and the perceived high cost of living were the main reasons.”

“With a lack of willing or available Australian recruits, resources companies are left with little alternative other than to plug the recruitment gaps with specialist skilled migrant workers,” Dr Bahn said.

Dr Bahn also found resource companies sometimes require highly skilled workers who have received specialist training often not available in Australia. She says migrant workers can help upskill the Australian workforce and better prepare graduates to ‘hit the ground running’.

“The resources companies want graduates that can hit the ground running, graduates who can take responsibility for multimillion dollar equipment for example,” Dr Bahn said.

“We found that there is a lack of ‘work ready’ university graduates. Higher education institutions need to rethink how they deliver courses that feed the resources sector to include more on the job placements for the duration of their degree.

“Highly skilled migrant workers can also pass on their knowledge and skills to Australian workers thereby training them in new and innovative practices."

“Modern Australian has been built through skilled migration and it appears that this is a trend that is likely to continue with benefits for workers, employers and the nation,” Dr Bahn said.

The study, entitled 457 visa workers in the Western Australian resources industry: The benefits and costs for business, migrant families, and the community, will be launched today:

Time: 12.30pm to 2pm

Venue: Building 1, Council Chambers, ECU Joondalup Campus.

For a copy of the full report visit the ECU School of Management website.

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