What kind of skilled migrant does Australia really need?
People who don’t live there often have a positive but narrow view of Australia: they see it as a land where the sun always shines and the natural resources never run out. Both these things are true in their ways, but to see the country simply as a land of prosperous bronzed Aussies, muscles rippling from honest hard work is to barely scratch the surface of this complex and increasingly technological society.
If you doubt Australia’s ability to master highly technical tasks think about this:
The U.S. Navy is considering a bid to use a shipbuilding centre in Port Adelaide, in the State of South Australia as a repair base for its warships.
As it happens, the U.S. is holding talks with the State Government over the proposal involving the $300 million Techport facility at Osborne.
Australia’s new $8 billion air warfare destroyers will be built at Techport, which also will be the construction base for the Royal Australian Navy’s next generation of submarines.
Premier Mike Rann and Defence SA chief executive Andrew Fletcher visited the Pentagon to have talks with U.S Government defence officials over the use of Techport, which includes a 213m wharf and the largest shiplift in the southern hemisphere.
“Strategically, there is much more work that can be done at this fantastic brand new state-of-the-art naval shipbuilding facility,” Mr Rann said.
“Techport Australia is a safe and secure location to undertake such repairs for naval vessels.”
It is understood almost any U.S. warship, except an aircraft carrier, is capable of being repaired at the site. Currently, the U.S. has repair bases in Japan and Singapore.
How much opportunity do you reckon these projects will create for skilled workers, some of whom are already residing in Australia, while many others are currently filling out skilled visa applications, or thinking about it.
And what about infrastructure projects in this atmosphere of global financial trepidation? In fact, Australian construction work spending was much stronger than expected in the last quarter as investment on infrastructure projects jumped, boding well for growth in the economy as a whole.
Government data showed the value of construction work fell just 0.1 per cent in the quarter to a seasonally adjusted $35.03 billion, easily reversing gloomy forecasts of a 4.0 per cent fall. First-quarter data was revised upwards to show fall of 2.2 per cent, from a drop of 3.7 per cent.
The data showed weakness in residential and non-residential building investments, offset by a strong 5.7 per cent rebound in engineering work, such as on roads and mines.
And, for the first time, spending on engineering projects outstripped investment in housing and commercial building. Not a bad result at all.
The data is a key building block for the second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) report and the surprise result could mean there is an upside risk to analysts’ forecasts.
“The unexpected rebound in engineering works in the second quarter points to a less weak-than-expected investment result for next week’s GDP result, providing some upside to our forecast,” said Scott Haslem, chief economist at UBS.
Australia dodged a technical recession in the first quarter, one of the few rich nations to do so. Earlier this month, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) raised its growth forecasts, forecasting a GDP growth of 0.5 per cent for all of 2009.
The RBA also dropped an easy monetary policy bias, and made clear rates could be expected to rise to normal levels over time. The cash rate is currently at a record low of 3 per cent.
Financial markets are fully pricing in a first 25 basis point rate rise in December, with a chance the RBA could move as early as November. The Aussie dollar is edging steadily upwards against the greenback, Sterling and many other better-known currencies.
The construction sector accounts for about 15 per cent of the entire Australian economy.
Spending on non-residential projects like offices, hospitals and shopping malls slumped 9.5 per cent as funds flowing into the commercial property sector dried up.
Yet spending on engineering projects rose 5.7 per cent in the quarter, to be up a whopping 22.7 per cent year-on-year.
This surge was pushed by robust investment in mining projects and private-public ventures to build roads, rails and ports. The public sector has also helped as state governments spent big on infrastructure.
“The strength (in engineering spending) was particularly notable in the private sector and was broad based across all states,” said Paul Brennan, analyst at Citi.
“Overall, the construction data reinforce our view that GDP will show positive growth in the June quarter.”
The amount for building in the pipeline also showed resilience. Work approved but yet to be started stood at $10.07 billion, up from $9.39 billion in the previous quarter.
And there was reason for optimism on engineering as well. The federal government on Wednesday approved a massive $50 billion liquefied natural gas project off western Australia.
Adam Carr, senior economist at ICAP, said the data pointed to a stronger business investment outlook than earlier assumed.
“So then, I am feeling comfortable with my view that we won’t see a massive slump in investment going forward. It is coming off, but not at a worrying pace,” he said.
Can you begin to imagine the scale of skilled worker recruitment that would be generated by this plethora of construction projects of many kinds? It would be easy to imagine that skilled trades people and professionals now resident in the world’s moribund economies will jump at the chance to take well paid and challenging jobs in a country that can re-ignite their stalled careers and keep them firing for many years to come.
Then of course, there’s the automotive industry. Australian designed Holdens (and Fords) have been sold in overseas markets for some years, often anonymously, re-badged as Chevs or Pontiacs, and Australian designed and built engines are exported by the boatload. But now, Toyota has officially launched the first Australian-built hybrid car as production began at its Altona assembly plant in Melbourne.
Last year the Australian Federal Government contributed 35 million Australian dollars (29.4 million U.S. dollars) to help support Toyota’s plans to build 10,000 Camry hybrids each year at the plant from 2010.
“The Hybrid Camry is a significant step towards a greener, more sustainable automotive industry,” Federal Industry Minister Kim Carr said in a statement.
“This is a major achievement for Toyota Australia - this plant is one of only five Toyota plants in the world making hybrid vehicles.”
The Camry uses a four-cylinder petrol engine as well as an electric engine which the car reverts to when it is travelling slowly or is stationary.
Carr said it was another example of a greener Australian automotive industry that was introducing new technologies and products aimed at reducing fuel consumption and car emissions.
It all adds up to several decades of red-hot opportunity for engineers, tradies, designers, architects, IT professionals and so on, who can be employed directly in these industries. Then there are those who can be employed in businesses and industries that can service those industries discussed above. And don’t forget the businessmen and entrepreneurs who can establish small and growing businesses in a climate that really encourages enterprise.
Well over 100,000 skilled migrants will be accepted into Australia even in the current budget period, which has been infected by the Global Financial Crisis. Fortunately, Australia has suffered only a mild case of GFC and is already well on the road to recovery. Consequently, the shortfall caused by that reduced quota will be magnified as that recovery forges ahead.
Anyone considering a move to Australia and an economic climate more conducive to advancing personal ambitions and establishing a generally better life, would be well-advised to select a reputable, proven and successful Australian visa advisory specialist and start researching Australia’s profuse and diverse opportunities for skilled workers and professionals in trades, technology and management.
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