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Western Australia to recruit 150,000 people over the next five years - with the help of UK HR directors


Western Australia (WA) should be the destination of choice for skilled migrants, said its training and workforce development minister, Peter Collier (pictured). He visited the UK last month to promote the advantages of living and working in Western Australia.

During the 10-day, UK-wide tour, Collier and his delegation met UK government representatives and the British Chambers of Commerce and also attended exhibitions in Leeds, London, Aberdeen and Dublin.

Research carried out by the WA government shows the state will need to recruit as many as 150,000 skilled workers by 2017 and hiring Western Australians alone will not be enough. This means it will have to recruit from overseas.

In the next four years, it is expected WA's jobs growth will be across a range of sectors, particularly in the areas of healthcare and social assistance (28,200 new jobs), construction (20,200) and education and training (19,500).

These are followed by retail (13,700), transport, postal and warehousing (10,600) and professional, scientific and technical services (7,900). There will also be demand for people in hospitality and tourism. In contrast to budget cuts affecting the UK public sector, WA is expecting the creation of 14,000 jobs in this sector alone.

Collier said: "WA is facing a period of strong economic growth, creating sustained, long-term career opportunities particularly in the mining and resources sector.

"With more than $225 billion (Australian) (£130 billion) of resource and infrastructure projects planned, WA is on the cusp of a 25-year expansion which, it is hoped, will drive forward the state's economy.

"We aim to show potential skilled migrants, short-term workers, working holiday-makers and their families the opportunities in WA. We are poised to grow, but with such a serious labour force shortage, we can only grow if we meet these needs, so the doors are open," Collier added.

Travelling with the delegation was Kath Soumanis, regional HR manager at Australian construction company, John Holland. The company, which employs 7,000 members of staff across Australia, is planning to recruit between 3,000 and 5,000 people within five years.

Speaking exclusively to HR magazine, she said: "There is a labour shortage in WA. We have some extensive projects coming up and we need to recruit civil and mechanical engineers, construction and rail project managers, safety professionals, welders, fitters and supervisors – not to mention HR staff."

Soumanis' role was to explain to prospective employees what it is like to live and work in WA and its business hub, Perth, as well as to set the wheels in motion on her own recruitment process.

The company has put plans in place to assist emigrants from the UK in moving to WA and setting up home there.

Soumanis added: "We know some areas we visited, such as Aberdeen and Dublin, have significant unemployment and in these areas jobseekers are more likely to have the skills we need.

"I have carried out interviews already and my inbox is full of applications from people I met in the UK. We plan to carry out phone screenings, interviews using Skype and, for some senior roles, we will fly people over here."

Rules making visa applications more flexible have been introduced by the Australian federal government to speed up the immigration process. The temporary visa 457 can now be obtained in a week and Soumanis said her company would also be recruiting short-term employees on a six-to-12 month 417 visa, although it is keen to sponsor employees to stay on longer.

Also speaking to HR magazine, Steve Moir, CEO of the Motor Trade Association of WA, said: "Industries in WA are closing down because there just aren't enough staff. We need to recruit, so if there are HRDs in the UK being forced to lay off staff, perhaps there is some kind of arrangement we could come to, to find people work here instead."