Bush centres are struggling to find enough skilled workers for the construction industry.
Bush centres are struggling to find enough skilled workers for the construction industry.

Regional migrants jobs plan could save bush towns

MIGRANTS could save the state's struggling bush towns from a shortage of skilled workers and fill vacancies driven by the construction boom, according to regional business leaders.

Industry representatives from across NSW have welcomed the Federal Government's promise to set aside 23,000 places for migrants who agree to live and work outside capital cities.


It is hoped the migrant boost would address severe skill shortages across several fields including construction - where just 32 per cent of vacancies in regional NSW are filled - according to a Department of Jobs and Small Businesses survey.

The 2018 survey found that regional towns secured workers for just 22 per cent of automotive and 50 per cent of health positions during that time.

NSW Business Chamber's western regional manager Vicki Seccombe said businesses in towns like Dubbo, Orana, Bourke, Brewarrina, Gilgandra and Warren have a "real challenge" in securing qualified staff.

"We are experiencing significant shortages in a number of areas, including hospitality, construction, trades, health, education and professional services like accountants and engineers," Ms Seccombe said.

"In the Orana region there is over $7 billion worth of major projects, with more in the pipeline and this is going to put additional pressure on finding skilled and semi-skilled workers."

Ms Seccombe said skilled migration "provides a pathway" to filling those jobs.

"It allows businesses to get on with the job and help to build stronger regional communities," she said.

RIC Electrics Wagga Wagga managing director Andrew Dwyer said the company has had significant issues trying to hire specialist skilled workers.

"We bid for work on a specific timeline so if we can't fill a position it means our guys work longer hours which obviously puts a strain on them," he said.

Dubbo business owner and Regional Development Australia Orana chair John Walkom said migrants would help regional businesses grow.

"It also brings new people into the community which boosts school numbers and then puts a demand on services, it's a welcome demand because it makes them more viable," he said.

Mr Walkom said telecommunications and road improvements meant regional towns were no longer as isolated, making them increasingly attractive places to live.

The Federal Government move comes as overseas migration rose to 1.6 per cent in the September quarter after falling for the previous 18 months, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data released yesterday.

Housing Industry Association's chief economist Tim Reardon said the stabilisation of overseas migration was a "welcome development".