End nears for skilled migration program

PHIL Hoggan has not only seen the dollar figures but he knows the people and their families.

Phil Hoggan, pictured with Sonia Valentine, who is originally from India, has been running the Skilled Migration Program which has brought hundreds of workers to the south-west. Funding for the successful program runs out this week.  140504AS02 Picture: AARON SAWALL

Phil Hoggan, pictured with Sonia Valentine, who is originally from India, has been running the Skilled Migration Program which has brought hundreds of workers to the south-west. Funding for the successful program runs out this week. 140504AS02 Picture: AARON SAWALL

He knows the Great South Coast (GSC) Skilled Migration Program has been a success not only because of the benefits it has given to the south-west’s economy but also to the community.

For the past six years, Mr Hoggan has headed the program under its various names as it has placed more than 250 skilled migrants in jobs throughout the south-west.

Economic modelling estimates those 250 migrants, who range from a surgeon to a bricklayer, have generated $115 million in economic benefits for the region.

Those benefits are calculated not only on the increased productivity of the enterprises the migrants work for, but on the many spin-off effects of their settlement such as the value of the goods and services they and their families buy from the local economy.

Mr Hoggan’s close involvement with the settlement of many of the migrants has also allowed him to see many of the other benefits they have brought to the region.

He tells the story of a panel beater/spray painter who came to the south-west through the program.

Within a few weeks of the man’s arrival, the man’s wife was part of the parents’ committee at their children’s school and the man had joined the CFA.

He said the program had also led to a lot of cultural enrichment such as the growth of the local Sri Lankan community. 

Mr Hoggan takes pride that nine of the 14 people to become Australian citizens at this year’s Warrnambool Australia Day ceremony came to the south-west through the skilled migration program.

Despite the program’s success, it will wind up on May 17 due to a lack of ongoing funding from the state government and other councils in the GSC group apart from Warrnambool City Council.

WCC remains committed to the work and will maintain a part-time migration support role within its economic development division.

Mr Hoggan said the continuation of skilled migration to the region was essential to the south-west’s sustained economic growth.

Both the state and local governments had gained a great return from the program, investing just under $570,000 over six years to gain the estimated $115 million economic benefit, he said.

Mr Hoggan pointed out the program made sure that employers who sponsored the migrants had tried to get labour locally before seeking out the migrants.

“They (the employers) have to show proof they have advertised the positions, that they have tested the labour market,” Mr Hoggan said.

“It (the migration program) does not take jobs from local people but it does indicate where we can tempt more local people into training opportunities,” he said.

Migrants placed in jobs in the south-west through the program have ranged from a surgeon to a psychiatrist to cooks and dairy farm managers.

The health industry had the biggest demand for labour, with nurses, an anaesthetist, psychiatrist and hospital medical officers all placed in jobs in the region.

Nurses, with experience in fields that ranged from aged care to acute care and surgical, made up the bulk of the health sector placements.

The trades sector provided the second largest demand with many of the jobs filled being for chefs and cooks. “The Great South Coast is heavily reliant on hospitality and tourism,” Mr Hoggan said.

Agriculture had the third largest demand with the positions filled including dairy farm managers and a livestock nutritionist.

Mr Hoggan said recent big increases in visa costs had not deterred applications from people wanting to migrate. “The Warrnambool numbers (of applicants) are growing again,” Mr Hoggan said.

“People are realising that regional sponsored migration is one of the fastest ways to become permanent residents,” he said.

Mr Hoggan said there were also calls to reduce the skills required for dairy industry staff who could be brought in as skilled migrants to meet ongoing shortages.

“Presently the only eligible class is farm manager, which is degree-qualified or five years’ experience,” he said.

There were calls for dairy farms to also be able to bring in senior farm hands, who had diploma qualifications or at least three years’ experience.

Mr Hoggan said the senior farm hands positions required more skills than just milking cows and applicants would also need to have knowledge of areas such as dairy herd management, pasture improvement and animal husbandry.

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