AS many as 100 new migrant workers would set up in the south-west under a new program to tackle labour shortages.
The Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) was launched at the Lighthouse Theatre on Tuesday and provides an opportunity for regional employers to be endorsed to hire overseas workers for roles that cannot be filled by Australian residents.
With the support of Wannon MP Dan Tehan, Warrnambool City Council will lead the project on behalf of Moyne, Corangamite, Glenelg, Southern Grampians and Colac-Otway Shires.
Mr Tehan encouraged employers to investigate the DAMA program and hire workers.
"You have a big responsibility to make sure this DAMA works, because if it does we have the potential to grow the 100 places even further," he said.
"It is beholden on all of us to make it work properly. It has the potential to be a game changer for the region."
Mr Tehan said the program wasn't about taking jobs from locals.
"Over recent years, we have been told by many employers that they struggle to recruit people in particular industries," he said.
"The community should also be reassured that every effort will continue to be made to fill vacancies locally before utilising the DAMA.
"This is a targeted program, and it's important to understand that workers appointed through the DAMA are not replacing local workers, they are filling gaps in the labour market which have been holding some businesses back.
"The DAMA will mean that businesses in the region can remain productive and competitive."
Warrnambool mayor Tony Herbert said the program would start with up to 100 employees appointed in the first year of the five-year agreement.
"There are 27 different types of jobs approved," he said.
"We now encourage businesses with skills shortages to utilise the program."
A DAMA provides flexibility for states, territories or regions to respond to their unique economic and labour market conditions through an agreement-based framework.
Under the framework, employers in areas experiencing skills and labour shortages can sponsor skilled and semi-skilled overseas workers.
DAMAs are designed to ensure employers recruit Australians as a first priority and prioritise initiatives and strategies to facilitate the recruitment and retention of Australian workers.
Warrnambool City Council chief executive officer Peter Schneider said there was a range of checks and balances in place to ensure the program delivered the right outcomes.
"When an employer applies for workers we look at their capacity to sustain any additional employees, their employment history, whether the position description fits the business and whether the roles have been advertised within Australia without success," he said.
South West Coast MP Roma Britnell said she was disappointed she couldn't attend the launch.
"This is something I worked hard on and was a major priority," she said.
"There are jobs that need to be filled, so I worked closely with industry figures and the federal government to ensure this DAMA application was successful. If there is no one to do the work, businesses can't grow and further jobs won't be created - DAMA will help transform our region, bringing people here to live and work and supporting businesses to keep employing and investing in the region."
Western Victoria MP Bev McArthur said it was fantastic news for the region.
"We don't have a jobs crisis, we have a worker crisis," she said. "This will hopefully help solve that."
Glenelg mayor Anita Rank said there was opportunities to attract people to the region.
"We have vacancies and it's one of the ways to attract people," she said.
Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman said the Federal Government was committed to addressing the skills needs of regional Australia.
"The Morrison Government is working to support the growth of regions and to match our migration program with labour market needs, particularly in regional Australia," Mr Coleman said.
"Our first priority is always to fill jobs with Australians, but the immigration system can play an important role in helping to address regional skills gap
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