Figures released by the Department of Immigration last week have lead to some hard questions about what’s happening to the training of Australians for Australian jobs.

Today, The Oz reveals that “doctors and nurses are getting the highest numbers of visas granted to temporary skilled migrants … The health service now beats the property and business services sector as the biggest users of temporary skilled migrants.”

The medical industry might be importing more workers than others, but the list of jobs on the government’s Migration Occupations in Demand List was updated last week and is notable for one thing – its length:

Accountant, Anaesthetist, Chemical Engineer, Civil Engineer, Computing Professional – specialising in CISSP , Computing Professional – specialising in C /C#/C, Computing Professional – specialising in Java, Computing Professional – specialising in J2EE, Computing Professional – specialising in Network Security, Computing Professional – specialising in Oracle, Computing Professional – specialising in PeopleSoft, Computing Professional – specialising in SAP, Computing Professional – specialising in SIEBEL, Dental Specialist, Dentist, Dermatologist, Electrical Engineer, Emergency Medicine Specialist, General Medical Practitioner, Hospital Pharmacist, Mechanical Engineer, Medical Diagnostic Radiographer, Mining Engineer (excluding Petroleum), Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Occupational Therapist, Ophthalmologist, Paediatrician, Pathologist, Petroleum Engineer, Physiotherapist, Podiatrist, Psychiatrist, Radiologist, Registered Mental Health Nurse, Registered Midwife, Registered Nurse, Retail Pharmacist, Specialist Medical Practitioners (not elsewhere classified), Specialist Physician, Speech Pathologist, Sonographer, Surgeon, Surveyor

That’s only the professions. Here are the trades:

Automotive Electrician, Baker, Boat Builder and Repairer, Bricklayer, Cabinetmaker, Carpenter, Carpenter and Joiner, Cook, Drainer, Electrical Powerline Tradesperson, Electrician (Special Class), Electronic Equipment, Tradesperson, Fibrous Plasterer, Fitter, Floor Finisher, Furniture Upholsterer, Gasfitter, General Electrician, General Electronic Instrument-Tradesperson, General Plumber, Hairdresser, Joiner, Lift Mechanic, Mechanical Services and Air-conditioning Plumber, Metal Fabricator (Boilermaker), Metal Machinist (First Class), Motor Mechanic, Panel Beater, Pastry Cook, Pressure Welder, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Mechanic, Roof Plumber, Roof Slater and Tiler, Solid Plasterer, Sheetmetal Worker (First Class), Stonemason, Toolmaker Vehicle Body Maker, Vehicle Painter, Wall and Floor Tiler, Welder (First Class)

Further anecdotal evidence of the shortages emerged last week when Crikey learned that the El Salvadorian government is teaching basic English to a group of 45 stonemasons before they travel to Victoria to start work at a south-east Melbourne company.

Another Crikey friend wrote: “At the finalists’ breakfast for the Western Australian Industry and Export awards on Wednesday, every single ‘finalist’ company I spoke to was using migrant visa workers to deal with the demand issues they are facing. The other amazing thing here is the proliferation of ‘position vacant’ or ‘workers required’ signs appearing on shop front windows, something I don’t think I have ever really seen other than at small lunch bars or fast food chains.”

No wonder the number of temporary skilled migrant visas issued grew from 27,350 in 2004-2005 to 39,530 in 2005-2006, an increase of almost 45%. What has happened to the government’s training strategies?

Can you hear that? It’s the sound of opportunity knocking. The question is, has anyone in the Federal Opposition heard it?

Peter Fray

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