Issues surrounding the lack of appropriately skilled workers in the Australian mining workforce have been widely discussed in the media recently. It was reported that more than 1,700 skilled migrants will be brought into Australia over the next three years to work on Gina Rinehart's 'Roy Hill Iron Ore Project'. This initiative made headlines as it resulted in the first enterprise migration agreement (EMA) to be signed by the Australian Government, in a bid to rectify the current shortage of skilled workers in this sector.
With almost a hundred resource and energy projects already signed off this year, workers are needed immediately to begin projects that will ideally be later taken over by newly qualified apprentices, once they finish their courses.
The decision to sign the EMA has received both criticism and support since it was announced - dividing the nation on whether or not such an agreement is beneficial or detrimental to the Australian economy and workforce. In support of the move, the EMA will allow signed-off projects to commence, which in turn is expected to stimulate the economy. Furthermore, Rinehart only has a maximum of 1,800 migrant workers taking part in the 8,000 people project, with the majority of jobs going to Australian workers. In addition to further enhance the home grown work force, the Roy Hill project is obligated to train 2,000 Australian workers in exchange for the short-term migration visas.
Conversely, there is much cynicism around bringing migrant workers into the country when there are so many Australians currently unemployed. With large corporations such as Qantas, Transport for Queensland and Pacific Brands all making huge redundancies,many believe that Australians who have lost their jobs should not be forced to compete against foreign workers. Unions in the sector have consistently expressed their dis approval of the EMA, citing the mining boom that Australia is currently experiencing as the perfect opportunities to invest in secure jobs for skilled workers.