International students in Australia can serve as an important role as Australia’s skilled workers. Tourism and Transport Forum CEO Margy Osmond told Sky News that Australia needs to get international students back “as soon as possible” to not only help Australian universities, but also provide skilled workers for the tourism industry.
“To be perfectly frank, the other part of this is international students; we have to get those international students back as soon as possible, not just for the sake of the universities but for our industry, which is so desperate for the skills those students provide in their downtime from their education,” she said. “It’s a pivotal part of the tourism industry being able to go forward.”
The tourism industry used to have over one million Australians employed in the sector. Due to the pandemic, they lost 600,000. “A whole generation of skills has taken their career aspirations elsewhere,” said Osmond.
Could international students play a bigger role as Australia’s skilled workers once borders reopen?
A Deloitte Access Economics report titled “The value of international education to Australia”, estimated that Australia’s current stock of international students will contribute
130,000 skilled migrants to the country’s workforce after they graduate. This represents a 3% increase in the share of Australia’s current workforce with a tertiary education, it said.
Separately, international students could play a role in filling Australia’s skilled workers. The country is reportedly considering doubling the migration points for professional year programmes and extending post-study work rights for offshore studies in flexible new study visa options. Government ministers are reportedly “genuinely open” to visa reforms and it is expected changes will be put in place before the start of the new year.
IEAA CEO Phil Honeywood said the proposals would entitle offshore students to post-study work rights. This will enable them to come to Australia and get their post-study work right based on their entire study abroad without any face-to-face learning. Other proposals include doubling the migration points for the completion of a professional year programme in Australia from five to 10. Honeywood was quoted saying that these programmes are “very popular” among international graduates. Collectively, this plays into Australia’s skilled migration push.
Industry experts say the skilled worker shortage in Australia has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Earlier this month, ABC News reported that independent advisory group Infrastructure Australia predicted in their report, “Infrastructure Market Capacity”, a shortage of trade workers from electricians, painters and joiners to university trained positions like senior engineers, geologists and architects.
The report notes that there is no quick fix for the skills shortage by 2023 as it takes several years of university to train qualified engineers, geologists, scientists and architects. Following the shortage, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is calling for an increase in skilled migration once the international border is open.
Yesterday, Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews said that before the end of the year, the country anticipates welcoming fully vaccinated skilled workers and international students.