Call for 30,000 migrants to fill skills shortage hosed down

A CALL for 30,000 extra migrants to address a looming skills crisis in the construction industry has been hosed down by unions and builders who say workers in Queensland and New South Wales are "crying out" for work, not skills.

The Australian Industry Group penned a submission to Federal Immigration Minister Scott Morrison asking that migration levels be pushed from the current 190,000 to 220,000 for the coming financial year.

AIG is a lobby group for Australian industry, representing 60,000 firms nationally

According to the letter from AIG, the loss of construction workers to the mining industry would cause a skills shortage once activity ramps up.

Queensland Master Builders Deputy Executive Director Paul Bidwell said in resources-rich regions including Mackay, Gladstone, Rockhampton and the Darling Downs, construction activity "slumped" late last year.

This slowdown meant workers were available.

On the Sunshine Coast, a modest improvement in building activity is attracting workers left idle by waning mining investment.

Some were returning to the Coast after earlier fleeing the downturn.

Mr Bidwell said of his 8500 members, none were talking about a skills shortage.

"There is nobody telling us they're looking for skilled labour," Mr Bidwell said.

"In an industry sense, there are no regions where that has been identified as an issue."

For now, he suggested a focus on rebuilding the apprenticeships that disappeared during the Global Financial Crisis.

It was a view supported by Brad Parker, the national assistant secretary of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union's construction division.

"It is easy to look at simple arrangements like going overseas for labour, but we are not considering what people we do have here," he said.

"There are skilled people looking for jobs."



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