Skills shortage Australia: What it could mean for visa opportunities

Key Points
  • Australia needs people to do these jobs. Here’s what it could mean for visa opportunities.
  • A new report has found 286 occupations had shortages nationally, nearly double the 153 occupations in 2021.
  • But updates to visa opportunities won’t be automatic.
The number of occupations suffering skills shortages has nearly doubled in the past year, with authorities now looking at the best ways to address the problem – although updates to visa opportunities won’t be “automatic”.
The federal-government-funded National Skills Commission’s 2022 Skills Priority List found 286 occupations had shortages nationally, compared to 153 occupations in 2021.
“The staggering jump in occupations listed reinforces the urgent need to tackle skills shortages,” Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor said on Thursday.
The release of the list comes ahead of the Ministerial Skills Council in Melbourne on Friday, during which skills ministers from across the country will consider how best to address shortages.
Top in-demand occupations include nurses, software programmers, aged care workers, construction managers and child care workers.

The commission provides advice to the government to help inform its decisions, but Grattan Institute economic policy program director Brendan Coates said the new list wouldn’t necessarily lead to any immediate changes to skilled occupation lists developed by the government and used for visa processing, which drives most of Australia’s skilled migration.

A table showing 20 occupationsA table showing 20 occupations

The National Skills Commission’s 2022 Priority Skills List has revealed in-demand occupations. Source: SBS News

Mr Coates said the most likely first change would be an update to the Commonwealth’s , a list of 44 jobs that are needed to fill critical skills shortages in Australia.

Applications from people in these occupations are fast-tracked through Commonwealth and state and territory visa processing schemes. Most recently, the occupations of a hospital pharmacist, industrial pharmacist and retail pharmacist were added to the list in July 2021.
Changes to longer skill occupation lists, which can include more than 400 occupations and are used to inform decisions on short-term, regional and other , are likely to take much longer.
“Those lists are much longer, and they don’t necessarily change as often,” Mr Coates said.

“They are determined by the minister, taking advice from Home Affairs and the Skills Commission, but it doesn’t automatically flow through from the work of the Skills Commission.”

Healthcare workers wearing personal protective equipment and pushing small trolleys outside an aged care facility in Melbourne.Healthcare workers wearing personal protective equipment and pushing small trolleys outside an aged care facility in Melbourne.

Healthcare workers such as nurses are one of the most in-demand professions. Source: AAP

The chief executive of the national employer association Ai Group, Innes Willox, said the release of the commission’s Priority Skills List was a reminder of the importance of the migration program to filling immediate skills gaps.

“Programs such as the 482 temporary skill visa are of growing importance to businesses as they struggle to find workers locally,” Mr Willox said.

“While the National Skills Commission data are separate from the Department of Home Affairs priority Skilled Occupations list, it should provide important input as that list is updated.”

SBS News asked Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor whether the government would be making changes to visa requirements using the updated Skills Priority List but did not receive a response before publication.
A spokeswoman for the National Skills Commission said the list helped inform advice on the targeting of policy initiatives.

“That said, it is important to note that it is not the only input into any such advice,” the spokeswoman said.

A group of young people handle food dressed in white uniformsA group of young people handle food dressed in white uniforms

Chefs and cooks are also in demand

In a separate statement, Mr O’Connor said the government had taken immediate steps to address the skills gaps and strengthen the VET [vocational education and training] sector.

“That is why the Albanese Government convened the Jobs and Skills Summit and is prioritising the passage of the Jobs and Skills Australia Bill, which is now in the Senate for passage,” he said.

“It’s also why the national cabinet agreed to 180,000 fee-free TAFE places by 2023 and why the Labor Government has pledged to deliver 20,000 new university places.”

People walk past some steps in front of a building People walk past some steps in front of a building

The Albanese Government has increased TAFE and university paces. Source: AAP

The commission’s report noted that the ongoing effects of COVID-19, along with the changing economic landscape, had contributed to a range of challenges in many occupations, including health professionals and teachers.

In the meantime, ongoing issues in the labour market remained, such as persistent shortages of technicians and trades workers, the report stated.

The report revealed the number of jobs advertised in Australia had increased by 42 per cent compared to the same time last year, with 309,900 jobs advertised in August 2022.

More than half of the 20 largest employing occupations (including aged and disabled carers, electrician, store person or waitress) were facing skills shortages.

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