Migrants to help tackle tourism labour shortage?

Date: Jul 11, 2012

Overseas workers in the tourism industry could soon need the services of migration lawyers as the government considers using them to plug gaps in the sector.

Speaking at a Queensland Tourism Industry Council breakfast, tourism and energy minister Martin Ferguson explained that the initiative has already proved successful in some areas, but could be rolled out further.

On July 1, the three-year Seasonal Worker Program trial got underway, which involved bringing workers over from East Timor and the Pacific to support accommodation providers.

The Whitsundays and Tropical North Queensland were among the regions that have so far benefited - a similar small-scale project is underway in Broome, which has attracted 12 workers from East Timor.

Immediate skill shortages have been identified in the Red Centre and Broome, Mr Ferguson confirmed, so efforts will be made to work with local companies to make sure tourism will still be able to thrive.

Calls have been made for the Working Holiday Maker Visa to be extended to tourism workers, which he said is currently being considered by the minister for immigration.

However, tourism is not the only sector that is in urgent need of skilled labour - the mining industry is estimated by Skills Australia to require 89,000 more workers by 2016.

Mr Ferguson continued: "It will be vital to find workers to deliver new projects on time and budget, and to avoid passing on pressures to tourism and other industries.

"The government has implemented a comprehensive National Resources Sector Workforce Strategy to achieve this, including Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMAs)."

These are able to accommodate projects worth in excess of $2 billion with more than 1,500 workers to access overseas labour when there is not enough talent within the domestic market.

EMAs have been designed to secure the long-term viability of major resources projects by making sure people can be trained up over the years while reducing pressure on other industries.

"The mining industry's labour needs are significant, and do have an impact on tourism, as such it is in your best interests to work together to create mutual employment pathways," added Mr Ferguson.

EMAs were launched back in 2011 to provide labour to large-scale resource projects and ensure workforce needs are met for the foreseeable future.

The EMA will pose as an umbrella migration arrangement for the project it is related to.