But more needs to be done to enhance the country’s “international student market competitiveness and strengthening the pipeline of skilled labour”, they say.
The national, state and territory chambers said that the two-year post-study work right extension is “an important first step”.
“The workforce need is here now and keeping existing international graduates in Australia for longer would be an immediate boost to available labour for critical jobs in key sectors,” said Andrew McKellar, chief executive of Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The chambers have said that current temporary graduate visa holders, not just future graduates, should be permitted to stay and work longer.
Additionally, work rights should be extended for all graduates, rather than those of specific degrees, for “at least” the next financial year. This “reflects the reality that businesses are facing significant workforce shortages in all industries”, the group said.
They are also advocating for temporary graduate work visas to be extended by an additional two years “to boost the workforce where university degrees are not required”. Doing so would benefit industries such as tourism and hospitality, which are currently experiencing significant workforce shortages, they added.
“These international graduates stayed in Australia through the pandemic, and we should recognise that commitment rather than excluding them,” McKellar noted.
“It’s a win-win. By encouraging international graduates to extend their stay, businesses will have more access to critical skills in an extremely tight labour market.”
Peak body representing independent skills training, higher education and international education providers, the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia, agreed with the ACCI suggestions.
“It makes no sense that we’re sending home international student graduates in areas such as engineering and healthcare when local employers are crying out for staff in these areas,” said Troy Williams, ITECA chief executive.
The ACCI three-point plan aligns with ITECA’s advice to the Australian government and is “something that we believe should be urgently adopted”, Williams continued.
“As these students complete their study, in the current economic environment, it is entirely sensible that we allow them to stay and work in Australia for longer. It would provide an immediate boost to available labour for critical jobs in key sectors,” he said.
“It is entirely sensible that we allow them to stay and work in Australia for longer”
“ITECA and ACCI have a shared view, it is a win-win for international students and local employers.”
Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson has said many of the “most in-demand” professions require a university qualification.
In its Skilling Australia for the future report, Universities Australia called on the government to “make it easier for international students to achieve permanent residency” after graduation, particularly if they have specialised in health, teaching and tech.
The paper reiterated that in 2018 the country generated AUS$369 million from friends and relatives visiting international students.
“It is essential we have the right policy settings to support the role universities play in ensuring Australia can respond to current and future workforce challenges,” Jackson added.