Government's plan to get skilled refugees requalified in Australia

Assistant minister David Gillespie said he would be “floating some ideas” with colleagues for a scheme “similar” to the Youth Jobs PaTH program. Source: SBS News

An assistant minister in the Turnbull government says he will propose a jobseeker scheme designed to get more refugees ‘off the dole’.

The Turnbull government will consider a new program to help refugees with professional backgrounds pay for bridging courses so they can requalify for jobs in Australia, a senior Nationals MP has revealed.

Assistant minister David Gillespie said he would be “floating some ideas” with colleagues for a scheme “similar” to the Youth Jobs PaTH program, which helps jobseekers with interview preparations and rewards companies for hiring young workers.

Dr Gillespie, who has responsibility for settlement services, said there were many refugees who were skilled professionals in their home countries before they sought asylum, but had trouble getting their qualifications recognised in Australia.

“I've been talking to industry leaders and settlement services leaders about getting more of our refugee intake into work and off the dole,” the Nationals MP told reporters at Parliament House on Monday.

“We have a phenomenon where up to 30 per cent of our refugee intake comes from highly-skilled professions and trades, yet many of them fail to get their training and their certification in the country.”

He said refugees often did not have the “ways and means” to pay for bridging courses and professional certifications when they arrived in Australia.

The program would look at “getting [refugees] a way that they can pay for bridging courses, a way that they can get through all the exams,” Dr Gillespie said.

File image of David Gillespie (AAP)
David Gillespie.

The 2018 Budget, released in May, saw the government announce refugees would have to spend six months on Centrelink payments before they could access ‘jobactive’ employment services, doubling the previous three-month wait.

The change, which the government said would help refugees “focus” on English lessons in their first months in Australia, will save the government $68 million over the next four years, according to Budget modelling.

Nationals politicians have been vocal on migration issues in recent months.

Dr Gillespie was among those suggesting changes to rural employment visas to prevent migrants who were sponsored by regional employers later leaving to settle in the cities.

He said it was “very frustrating” for rural companies when they paid upfront visa costs, only to have workers leave for urban areas once their visa conditions were met.

Multiculturalism minister Alan Tudge said the government was considering options to “bind” migrants to the regions, long-term.

Nationals leader Michael McCormack has also voiced support for a scheme to send more skilled migrants to regional centres experiencing population decline and shortages of labour. 

A number of regional towns have successfully propped up local industries with workers from refugee backgrounds.

More than 100 Karen refugees from Myanmar work in the Victorian town of Nhill, almost exclusively for a poultry manufacturer.

Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce welcomed news that 200 Syrian and Iraqi refugees would settle in the NSW town of Armidale, suggesting many could find work at a nearby tomato farm in Guyra.

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