Government Omitted Critical Auto Jobs From Skilled Migration List: VACC

VACC: Government Omits Critical Auto Jobs From Skilled Migration List - Geoff Gwilym

The Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce (VACC) says the omission of critical automotive trades as priorities for skilled migration exacerbates existing skills shortages, potentially derailing economic recovery efforts.

Geoff Gwilym, CEO of the VACC, said the lack of any automotive occupation on the government’s latest Priority Migration Skilled Occupations List (PMSOL) is a slap in the face to thousands of Australian automotive businesses struggling to meet demand and keep the nation moving and connected.

“The failure to include mechanics, panel beaters and vehicle painters not only says automotive is not a priority, but industries, infrastructure projects and the mobility and connectivity of Australians are also not a priority,” Gwilym said.

The VACC says the PMSOL failed to acknowledge a current shortage of 31,140 skilled positions across automotive industries, the highest skilled labour shortage ever recorded, and its impact on the service and repair of the 20-million-strong national vehicle fleet.

“Delays to work commencement are stretching to days and weeks. Some work is not getting done at all, and some businesses are opting to sell equipment and downgrade capacity and capability as the only viable alternative to skills shortages,” said Gwilym. “We can demonstrate these delays now impacting infrastructure projects, freight, general transport, deliveries [and] civil works, not to mention Australians’ reliance on their car, motorcycle, truck, tractor or other vehicles.”

According to Gwilym, automotive businesses are doing everything in their power to address skills shortages.

“Almost without exception, auto businesses are paying well above award wages – they are incentivising remuneration packages and work-life arrangements, seizing every assistance measure and opportunity to hire,” he said. “For example, the current apprentice subsidy contributes a near 40 per cent increase in auto apprentices nationally. But it’s not enough to overcome the gap filled by skilled migration.

“Stresses are mounting at a time of significant recovery. I know of an Australian automotive business that says trading is vibrant – back to pre-pandemic levels – and it could appoint 55 people today across mechanical repair, metal fabrication, and spray-painting occupations. However, after seven months of job advertisements, most applicant interest is from overseas. Almost none of the handful of domestic applicants were suitable due to a lack of experience, skills or because they were only applying to satisfy JobSeeker application requirements.”

Gwilym said other businesses are increasingly concerned that failure to prioritise automotive occupations will further delay skilled migrants who have been identified and are waiting to arrive to address shortages.