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Australia: GTI migrant program welcomed by HEIs, but concerns over skills shortages remain

Universities Australia has welcomed the introduction of a new government global talent program set to recruit 5,000 high-skilled migrants, saying it will support the country’s knowledge economy. However, skills shortages at various levels of experience still remain, according to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia.

The program aims to lure up to 5000 high-income earners working at the top of their field to Australia. Photo: freeaussiestock

The program aims to bring in 5,000 migrants between July 2019 and June 2020

Launched at the beginning of November by immigration minister David Coleman, the ‘Global Talent Independent’ program will focus on attracting talent working in seven “future-focused fields” such as AgTech, FinTech, MedTech, advanced digital, data science and ICT.

“Strong global engagement is crucial to the success of Australia’s university sector”

Applicants who work in one of the sectors and who are likely to earn more than AUS$149,000 per year, will be fast-tracked into permanent citizenship, and the program aims to bring in 5,000 migrants between July 2019 and June 2020.

Australia’s Home Affairs department is set to work with universities and industry bodies, in the hope that the brain gain will promote innovation and create job opportunities in the country. 

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said strong global engagement is crucial to the success of Australia’s university sector, and to the country’s wider economy.

“Australia’s universities support schemes that strengthen our nation’s knowledge economy and enable Australia’s universities to recruit from the best and brightest globally,” said Jackson.

“The Global Talent Visa is a good initiative and we will work with Government to smooth implementation of the new scheme, and ensure it meets the needs of our economy, universities and research institutions.”

As part of the scheme, Australian officials will actively seek out high-skilled workers from overseas, and attend key industry events and expos to promote the program.

The Department of Home Affairs said that it already has global talent officers located in Berlin, Dubai, New Delhi, Santiago, Shanghai, Singapore, and Washington DC. 

Australian HEIs have welcomed the government’s move to support high-tech, developing industries and highlighted the importance of immigration for Australia’s economy. 

The University of South Australia’s vice-chancellor David Lloyd told The PIE News that the institution welcomes any initiatives that can help to attract international talent to South Australia.

“As South Australia’s largest university, we are deeply invested in developing the skills, partnerships and knowledge that will deliver talent to growing industries such as defence, space and communications,” he said.

Queensland’s Griffith University vice president (global), Sarah Todd, told The PIE that her university was “delighted” to see the federal government opening up streamlined pathways for talented professionals.

“This announcement comes on top of the recent extension of post-study work visa rights for international students who study in regional Australian campuses, and is a further recognition of the importance of attracting talented migrants from around the world who will, in turn, contribute to the development of industry sectors critical to Australia’s future success,” she said. 

But while responses to the GTI have been positive, questions on the implementation of the program remain. 

“It will highlight opportunities in Australian sectors that undoubtedly would benefit from attracting diverse and talented individuals from across the globe,” University of Queensland deputy vice-chancellor (academic) Joanne Wright told The PIE.   

However, she added that there would be challenges managing expectations and ensuring the optimum mix across different pathways, as well as ensuring the high calibre of applicants is maintained and sustained long term.

The Committee for Economic Development of Australia welcomed the GTI program but called on the Australian government to reassess regulations for temporary skilled migration. 

CEDA drew attention to Australia’s ANZSCO occupation codes, which they say need to be updated so they align with current and emerging labour needs. 

“There are skills shortages at various levels of experience that would benefit from further improvements to the current system,” said CEDA CEO Melinda Cilento. 

“It is yet another change to a system in almost constant flux”

“While the GTI is a step in the right direction, it is yet another change to a system in almost constant flux.

“What business would benefit from is… a consistent approach across the entire immigration system that encourages and enables the best and brightest to work in Australia,” she added.

New plans to attract global talent into Australia have been in the pipeline since last year.

The government recently brought the Global Talent Employer Sponsored program into permanent effect after a trial period.

But while the GTI has a similar goal to the GTES, in bringing high quality, global talent into the country, the two programs will sit separately from one another.

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