ATEC calls for working holiday solution to skills shortage

ATEC calls for working holiday solution to skills shortage

The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) has sounded the alarm about skills shortages plaguing the tourism industry.

The main call that ATEC is making is to expand the eligibility criteria under which Working Holiday Makers (WHM) can extend their stay by an additional one to two years. The council says this will help to meet the tourism industry’s need for unskilled labour put forward to this week’s Jobs Summit.

ATEC is calling for three months of work in the tourism and hospitality sector to be included in the eligibility criteria for WHM visitors to qualify for a second-year visa, expanding it to include areas beyond the current ‘northern or remote and very remote Australia’ qualifying regions.

“Tourism and hospitality businesses across the country are facing severe shortages in staff, particularly the unskilled workforce which helps businesses to meet the demands of seasonal fluctuations,” ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said.

“Previously WHM holders could work for 3 months in jobs primarily in the agricultural sector, in order to qualify for an extension of their visa. Some jobs in the tourism industry also qualify however these are restricted to work in regional areas of northern parts of the country.

“Tourism businesses across the country desperately need unskilled workers and these workers are crucial to the successful rebuilding of our industry.”

Shelley said that while the tourism industry required long-term solutions to the workforce challenge, there is an opportunity to instigate a short-term solution through the Working Holiday Maker program which was introduced in 1975 with the purpose of promoting cross cultural understanding.

“ATEC recognises the significant need for both skilled and unskilled labour across the sector and the lack of unskilled labour in particular is something which can be addressed by expanding the WHM visa criteria as way of meeting the severe labour shortages being faced as the industry rebuilds post-COVID.

“We have an opportunity to use the WHM visa system to both support the rebuild of Australia’s tourism industry and to help solve some of the critical workforce shortages being faced across the nation.

“Given the WHM visa is in essence a tourism visa, making it more attractive by offering a wider range of work options will create greater uptake and therefore also help support the regrowth of this export market.”

ATEC is calling on the Federal Government expand the definition of a ‘specified area of work’ within the WHM second year eligibility extension to include all tourism and hospitality work across the country.

Expanding the criteria will encourage greater numbers of WHM visitors to Australia, provides a desperately need boost to our workforce, will lock in this expanded workforce for a second year, provides tourism dollars to our economy and will help to create a positive message for international visitors thinking of coming to Australia.

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