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Migrants still overlooked despite widespread skills shortages in Australia

Updated: May 9, 2022

You may have heard of the Taxi driver from a migrant background with two degrees. What we may not realise is that they are doing that job because they can not get access to their chosen profession, despite many years of trying and after receiving support from employment service providers.

In an attempt to find out why this is happening, HOST International recently partnered with major employment services provider MAX Solutions to conducted a number of surveys and focus groups of 440 migrant job seekers and sector experts.

The results were published recently in a report titled "Ready to Work", available to view here.

accessing local opportunities are a key challenge for new migrants

We found that even though Australia now has the lowest unemployment rate for 20 years, migrants and refugees continue to have low expectations of securing sustainable employment.

Most migrants surveyed find accessing work opportunities to be very difficult, despite having reasonable command of the English language.

Participants in focus groups indicated that the primary barriers to employment for migrant workers is still related to employer expectation of local work experience and localised qualifications.

Skills and qualification recognition were reported as costly and difficult to access, and many felt that their past experience was not valued by Australian employers. 51% of respondents had completed local industry-relevant training, but still reported struggling to secure work at a level commensurate to what they held in their home country.

past experience often overlooked by local employers

Participants in the focus group were sympathetic to employers who may be nervous about the efficacy of overseas qualifications .

Many employers acknowledged the challenges of securing foreign reference checks, however they generally felt that their prior overseas experience was not given the same credibility as local candidates.

Migrants surveyed described being stuck in a cycle of being unable to secure meaningful employment and an expectation to restart at the bottom or their career or to enter unskilled work.

Participants requested employers provide more opportunities for work experience and employment opportunities at all levels in order to demonstrate their capability.

profession-specific support services critical

Concerningly, 74% of respondents said that it was difficult to find the right information and/or support services to access their chosen profession.

This suggests that employment services are not yet meeting the needs of migrant job seekers and focus group discussions indicated that job seekers need support to build professional networks as well as learning about how to best compete in the local Australian workforce.

We hope that this report will help various stakeholders to consider some of the challenges that migrants face accessing the labour market due to their origins.

Rather than importing workers, we must first get better at recognising local migrant talent and devising strategies to overcome systemic barriers such as bias, lack of specialised support services and regulatory or financial hurdles associated with skills and qualification recognition.

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