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McGowan to push Albo on semi-skilled workers’ visas

Premier Mark McGowan will push for “semi-skilled” occupations experiencing critical shortages – such as truck drivers, drillers and child and aged care workers – to be added to the Federal Government’s permanent migration program.

After dramatically easing entry requirements for overseas workers coming to WA, Mr McGowan will use next week’s Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra to campaign for a major expansion of Australia’s skilled occupation list.

The Federal Government is responsible for setting minimum visa requirements for foreign workers – including curating the list of eligible occupations.

WA – and every other State – then selects jobs on that list for inclusion in its own State Nominated Migration Program, which provides applicants with bonuses in the points-based system used by the Department of Home Affairs to approve visas.

Mr McGowan on Sunday revealed an additional 106 jobs were being added to WA’s list – bringing the total to 286 – while a raft of other measures, such as waiving application fees and reducing work experience and English language requirements, were also being enacted.

The transport and agricultural sectors – both of which are battling severe labour shortages – were left disappointed by the announcement because occupations such as truck drivers and agricultural workers were not included in the expanded list.

A McGowan Government spokesman said WA was unable to include those roles because they were not on the Commonwealth’s occupation list – something the Premier would campaign to change.

“WA cannot include what the Commonwealth regards as semiskilled and unskilled occupations, such as truck drivers, agricultural workers, drillers, train drivers and care sector workers,” the spokesman said.

“We’ve been listening to industry on this matter, which is why the Premier has flagged he will be asking the Commonwealth at the upcoming national Jobs and Skills Summit to consider a broader range of occupations to meet the demand for workers in WA.”

Camera IconWilliams grain and hay grower Mark Fowler. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman

WAFarmers grains section president and Williams farmer Mark Fowler said farmers were currently “stuck between a rock and a hard place” and had no choice but to work longer hours to get crops off.

“We’re looking down the barrel of another difficult labour situation for harvest,” he said.

“That has to put some pressure on the safety situation — that fatigue.”

He said the grains industry had been “pushing for recognition on a Federal level” for years and hoped the State Government would champion their cause for farm machinery operators to be reclassified and therefore added to the WA list.

There are currently 674 occupations on the Commonwealth’s skilled occupation list, the vast majority of which require either a university degree or TAFE training.

The McGowan Government on Monday announced it was spending close to $4 million to provide short-term programs delivering hospitality and tourism skills in a bid to plug gaps in workforces that traditionally have been heavily reliant on international students and backpackers.

The courses will be open to foreign students who have made a slow return to WA after the State opened its borders to the rest of the world in March.

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