House of Representatives Committees

Contents


Foreword
Membership of the Committee
Terms of reference
List of abbreviations
List of recommendations
Inquiry Process
Chapter 1 Overview
Chapter 2 Policy coordination issues
Chapter 3 Overseas skills recognition framework
Chapter 4 Professions: skills recognition issues
Chapter 5 Trades: skills recognition issues
Chapter 6 International practice and agreements
Chapter 7 Other issues in overseas skills recognition
Appendix A: List of submissions
Appendix B: List of witnesses
Appendix C: List of exhibits
Appendix D : Visa classes and subclasses
Appendix E: Comparison of ASRI and AEI-NOOSR websites: physiotherapy
Appendix F: COAG statement on the health workforce

Foreword

Skilled migration, the largest component of Australia’s migration program, is the subject of much discussion and comment in the Australian community. While there is widespread acceptance of the need to have a program by which the Australian workforce can be supplemented by migrants with particular skills that are in need here, there is community concern that the level of skills of those coming into the country is equivalent to Australian occupational and safety standards and that lower skilled workers are not used to undercut the wages of existing workers.

Assessing the skills of those who wish to migrate to Australia as skilled migrants is therefore a key element of the system—people need to have faith that the system is fair and well-managed. Perceptions of how efficiently assessments are conducted and the experience of the skilled migrants when arriving in Australia to make a new life for themselves and their family are often coloured by the ease or otherwise of the process they have undergone.

The migration of skilled personnel to Australia enhances the Australian labour force and contributes greatly to the Australian economy. However, an overly bureaucratic system that impedes the timely arrival of much needed skilled labour does not assist industry in providing economic growth for Australia. Anecdotal evidence from my own state suggests that a lack of skilled workers is having a serious impact on plans for a number of major mining ventures.

For all of these reasons, a review of the recognition, upgrading and licensing of overseas skills was a very timely inquiry for the Joint Standing Committee on Migration to undertake. The current picture is complex and a number of submissions likened the task facing a potential migrant to that of someone trying to find their way through a maze. Where do they go to get started? If they start in the wrong place (elect to apply for one type of visa, for example, as opposed to another) they may find themselves lost in a bureaucratic muddle, unable to go forward or go back. What does the pre-migration assessment of skills really mean? What role do the state Overseas Qualifications Units play? How does an applicant find out about how to improve their skills to meet the assessment requirements? Is registration a legal necessity?

The report examines the structural barriers that hamper the efficient recognition of skills of those trained overseas. Its recommendations contribute to further policy development in skills recognition and licensing, to promote greater labour mobility and address skills shortages.

During the inquiry a number of changes to the skilled migration program were announced by the government and other administrative changes were made by bodies involved in the process. The Committee hopes that this report identifies a number of areas where further improvements can be made, ensuring as robust a system as possible and one that is comparatively easy to understand.

The Committee was very pleased to receive a wide range of submissions on this subject. Not only federal and state government departments had input but also a wide range of professional organisations, industry groups and individuals who have been through the skilled migration process. The Committee was particularly grateful that so many groups and individuals were able to participate in the public hearings that were held.

I would like to thank all members of the Committee who worked so conscientiously during the course of the inquiry. Their experience in migration issues and understanding of the complexities associated with the subject have added greatly to the report. I would also like to place on record my thanks to the secretariat who assisted the Committee during the inquiry, and in particular Dr  Kate Sullivan who started work on the inquiry when it was well underway and faced the difficult task of pulling much of the evidence together.

Finally, I was honoured to lead the Joint Standing Committee on Migration delegation to New Zealand in August 2006 as part of the annual committee exchange between the two parliaments. The Committee took the opportunity to examine New Zealand’s skilled migration program, as well as its overseas skills recognition process.

On behalf of the delegation, I would like to thank the New Zealand parliamentarians, government and non-government officials and peak ethnic groups who generously gave their time and shared information which assisted in the Committee’s report deliberations. I would also like to thank the other members of the delegation—Senator Linda Kirk, the Deputy Leader of the delegation; Mr Laurie Ferguson MP; and Senator Stephen Parry—for their active and constructive contribution to the delegation.

Don Randall MP

Chair

Membership of the Committee

Chair

Mr Don Randall MP

 

Deputy Chair

Senator Linda Kirk

 

Members

Senator Andrew Bartlett

 

 

Senator Alan Eggleston

 

 

Senator Tsebin Tchen (to 30 June 2005 )

 

 

Senator Stephen Parry (from 1 July 2005 )

 

 

Mr Tony Burke MP (from 6 September 2005 to 11 October 2005 )

 

 

Hon Dr Carmen Lawrence MP

 

 

Mr Laurie Ferguson MP

 

 

Mrs Julia Irwin MP (to 10 May 2005; and from 11 October 2005)

 

 

Mr Michael Keenan MP

 

 

Hon Roger Price MP (from 10 May 2005 to 6 September 2005 )

 

 

Dr Andrew Southcott MP

 

Committee Secretariat

Secretary

Ms Joanne Towner

Inquiry Secretary

Ms Paola Cerrato-D’Amico (from 2 May 2005 to 9 September 2005)

 

Ms Kate Tubridy (from 12 September 2005 to 25 November 2005)

 

Dr Kate Sullivan (from 6 February 2006)

Research Officers

Ms Samantha Mannette (from 6 September 2005 to 19 May 2006)

Dr Mark Rodrigues (from 29 May 2006 )

Administrative Officer

Ms Jazmine De Roza

 

 

Terms of reference

On 19 April 2005 the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs referred the following matter to the inquiry:

  1. Investigate and report on current arrangements for overseas skills recognition and associated issues of licensing and registration for:

List of abbreviations

ACOPRA

Australian Council of Physiotherapy Regulating Authorities

ACS

Australian Computer Society

AEI

Australian Education International

ALIA

Australian Library and Information Association

AMC

Australian Medical Council

AMEP

Adult Migrant English Program

APC

Australian Physiotherapy Council

AQF

Australian Qualifications Framework

AQTF

Australian Qualification Training Framework

ARF

Australian Recognition Framework

ARTC

Australian Recognised Trade Certificate

ASCO

Australian Standard Classification of Occupations

ASDOT

Assessment Subsidy for the Disadvantaged Overseas Trained Australians

ASNZCO

Australia and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations

ASRI

Australian Skills Recognition Information

CALD

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse

CCEA

Council of Chiropractic Education Australasia

CEP

Country Education Profiles

COAG

Council of Australian Governments

CPA

Certified Practising Accountant

CTC

Central Trades Committee

DEST

Department of Education, Science and Training

DEWR

Department of Employment and Workplace Relations

DIMA

Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

DIMIA

Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs

ENS

Employer Nomination Scheme

ESM

Employer Sponsored Migration

GSM

General Skilled Migration

HECS

Higher Education Contribution Scheme

IELTS

International English Language Testing System

LSIA

Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia

LTC

Local Trades Committee

MODL

Migration Occupations in Demand List

MRC

Migrant Resource Centre

NESB

Non-English-Speaking Background

NOOSR

National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition

OQU

Overseas Qualifications Unit

OTD

Overseas Trained Doctor

RPL

Recognition of Prior Learning

RSMS

Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme

RTO

Registered Training Organisation

SHP

Special Humanitarian Program

SIR

Skilled Independent Regional (visa)

SOL

Skilled Occupation List

SSASSL

Sydney and Selected Areas Skilled Shortage List

TRA

Trades Recognition Australia

TRR Act

Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act 1946

UAC

Uniform Assessment Criteria

VET

Vocational Education and Training

VETASSESS

Vocational Education Training and Assessment Services

 

List of recommendations

1 Overview

Recommendation 1

The Committee recommends that, as part of its long term research on migration outcomes, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs collect enhanced data on migrant utilisation of overseas qualifications and other indicators of the effectiveness of overseas skills recognition processes.

Recommendation 2

The Committee recommends that the fee charged for assessing Australian qualifications for the purpose of independent overseas student and skilled Australian sponsored visas (subclasses 880, 881 and 882) be waived, where that qualification is sufficient in and of itself to allow the applicant to qualify for their profession or trade.

2 Policy coordination issues

Recommendation 3

The Committee recommends that the industry outreach officer network collect information on skills recognition barriers from an employer perspective, including feedback on delays, bridging requirements, work experience and other skills issues, and that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs incorporate this information into further policy development.

Recommendation 4

The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and other stakeholders use the skills expos to provide clearer and more detailed information on overseas skills recognition processes to users, particularly licensing and registration requirements.

Recommendation 5

The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs establish a mechanism to better capture information from the Migrant Resource Centres on the barriers faced by migrants in seeking skills recognition.

Recommendation 6

The Committee recommends that the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) work more closely with assessing authorities, industry groups and other stakeholders to ensure the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) reflects , as precisely as possible, occupations and specialisations in demand at any particular time. To facilitate this, DEWR should develop a process to more regularly review the MODL—on a three monthly basis, at a minimum—and improve feedback on its accuracy and currency .

Recommendation 7

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education, Science and Training accelerate the process of expanding and updating the Country Education Profiles and develop a process to periodically review and formally receive feedback on the accuracy and currency of that information.

3 Overseas skills recognition framework

Recommendation 8

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education, Science and Training implement a change of title for Australian Education International-National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition (AEI-NOOSR), with it to be referred to in future as Australian Education International (AEI). AEI should continue to perform the full range of functions currently undertaken by AEI-NOOSR.

Recommendation 9

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education, Science and Training:

a) take over the management of the Vocational Education Training and Assessment Services contract from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA);

b) improve its oversight, coordination and monitoring of assessing authorities;

c) enhance its liaison and support role of assessing authorities; and

d) improve its communication flows with assessing authorities, particularly concerning notice of policy changes by DIMA and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations that may affect assessment processes.

Recommendation 10

The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs regularly update and continually monitor the content of the new Australian Skills Recognition Information website to ensure that it meets the varied needs of the different groups requiring overseas skills recognition, particularly with regard to ensuring the information is user-friendly to people from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

Recommendation 11

The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs add a ‘frequently asked questions’ section to the Australian Skills Recognition Information website.

Recommendation 12

The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs ensure the Australian Skills Recognition Information website provides an overview of the various organisations involved in administering, monitoring and delivering overseas skills recognition services, both nationally and at the state and territory level, to clarify the governance arrangements and different roles and responsibilities of these bodies. This information should also include links to contact details and relevant performance reporting and accountability documents on skills recognition processes.

Recommendation 13

The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) ensure the Australian Skills Recognition Information website includes a link to other key DIMA documents relating to overseas skills recognition—for example:

Recommendation 14

The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs ensure key documents relevant to the migration process contain links to the Australian Skills Recognition Information website.

Recommendation 15

The Committee recommends that the Departments of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and Education, Science and Training work together to remove duplication between the Australian Skills Recognition Information and the Australian Education International-National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition websites—in particular, the occupation specific information.

Recommendation 16

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education, Science and Training update the introductory information on overseas skills recognition on the Australian Education International-National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition website to include a reference to registration and licensing.

Recommendation 17

The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and the Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST), together with the assessing authorities overseen by DEST, continue to review the pre-migration information they provide on overseas skills recognition to ensure that:

Recommendation 18

The Committee recommends that, as part of its long term research on migration outcomes, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) collect data, where privacy concerns allow, on:

DIMA should coordinate with the Department of Education, Science and Training and assessing authorities/professional bodies to assist in tracking this information.

Recommendation 19

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education, Science and Training increase the transparency of its monitoring arrangements and foster improvements in procedures by:

a) immediately formalising its monitoring of assessing authorities, including establishment of an annual reporting arrangement, and communicating details of the full scope of this role to all stakeholders;

b) arranging for a statement clarifying full details of its monitoring role to appear on the Australian Skills Recognition Information website, with a contact point for complaints handling;

c) working with the professional bodies to agree on appropriate monitoring, reporting and accountability arrangements to cover overseas skills recognition processes undertaken by these bodies for other groups with overseas qualifications (family stream migrants et cetera) outside of the skilled migration stream, with these arrangements to be communicated to all stakeholders; and

d) arranging for the performance and other statistical reporting data it collects from the assessing authorities, where privacy concerns allow, to be made publicly available.

Recommendation 20

The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs include a link on the Australian Skills Recognition Information website to the Department of Education, Science and Training’s Good Practice Guide for the Assessment and Recognition of Overseas Qualifications and Skills for the Purposes of Migration.

4 Professions: skills recognition issues

Recommendation 21

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education, Science and Training, as part of its monitoring of assessing authorities, review the occupational specific concerns relating to overseas skills assessment procedures raised in the evidence in Figure 4.1 and, as appropriate, address those concerns, with a report back to the Committee.

Recommendation 22

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education, Science and Training review inconsistencies in the skills assessment procedures of assessing authorities, with reference to the first section of Chapter 4 of the Committee’s report, and work with assessing authorities to remove such inconsistencies, where appropriate, to ensure efficient and effective assessment processes.

Recommendation 23

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education, Science and Training review assessment completion times across all the assessing authorities with a view to expediting decisions.

Recommendation 24

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) monitor assessment fees and work with assessing authorities to ensure these fees are reasonable and have been determined on a not-for-profit basis. DEST should also monitor exam failure rates and work with assessing authorities to address, as appropriate, any significant anomalies in this area.

Recommendation 25

The Committee recommends that Commonwealth agencies involved in implementing the new accreditation body for the health professions clarify as soon as possible how the development of a national approach for the assessment of the education and training qualifications of overseas trained health workers will impact on the current roles of the assessing authorities/professional bodies in this area, as well as on the Department of Education, Science and Training in its monitoring role for these authorities.

Recommendation 26

The Committee recommends that, in light of the serious concerns that have been raised with the Committee about overseas skills assessment processes for overseas trained doctors (OTDs), the Department of Health and Ageing should ensure initiatives announced by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to establish a national process for the assessment of OTDs are implemented by the COAG agreed timetable of December 2006.

Recommendation 27

The Committee recommends that the Department of Health and Ageing urgently address, as part of the recently announced Council of Australian Governments initiatives, the provision of:

a) orientation and support services to overseas trained doctors (OTDs), particularly those located in rural and remote areas; and

b) targeted bridging courses for OTDs.

Recommendation 28

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education, Science and Training work with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs to add a new section on training to the Australian Skills Recognition Information website. The website should emphasise the need to consult with assessing authorities before undertaking any education and training to ensure that the course will actually contribute to a successful skills assessment in their profession.

Recommendation 29

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education, Science and Training, as part of its international education policy oversight role, monitor education and training, including bridging courses, undertaken in Australia for skills assessment and migration purposes to improve communication to users.

Recommendation 30

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education, Science and Training, in its monitoring role of assessing authorities, work with the Australian Council of Physiotherapy Regulating Authorities (now the Australian Physiotherapy Council) to ensure its processes are consistent with best practice, and report back to the Committee on this matter.

Recommendation 31

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education, Science and Training, in its monitoring role of assessing authorities, work with the Council on Chiropractic Education Australasia to ensure its processes are consistent with best practice, and report back to the Committee on this matter.

Recommendation 32

The Committee recommends that the lead Commonwealth agencies responsible for migration, employment and international education policy— the Departments of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Employment and Workplace Relations, and Education, Science and Training—implement processes to ensure:

a) a rapid response to concerns raised by assessing authorities/professional bodies about specific occupational oversupplies or undersupplies that might impact on successful migration and employment outcomes; and

b) there is improved coordination between migration employment policy and international education policy to avoid occupational oversupplies such as those that have occurred in accounting and information and communications technology.

Recommendation 33

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education, Science and Training, as the new manager of the Vocational Education Training and Assessment Services (VETASSESS) contract, review VETASSESS processes to enable it to broaden its skills assessment regime to allow competency based assessment and recognition of work experience.

Recommendation 34

The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs update:

a) the occupational specific information for librarians and library technicians on the Australian Skills Recognition Information (ASRI) website to notify potential migrants of the need to contact the Australian Library and Information Association to obtain information on membership requirements of the professional body necessary to gaining employment in these occupations in Australia; and

b) the generic information across all occupational entries on the ASRI website to ensure there is a reference to membership of professional bodies being a formal requirement to work in certain professions.

5 Trades: skills recognition issues

Recommendation 35

The Committee recommends that the Skilled Occupation List be amended to include a prominent statement at the start of the document that additional assessments for registration or licensing purposes may be required on arrival in Australia, before an applicant can commence work, and that additional training might be required.

Recommendation 36

The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, along with the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and the Department of Education, Science and Training, review the assessing authorities in the trades and technical areas to ensure some consistency of approach in allocation of trades to either the Vocational Education Training and Assessment Services or Trades Recognition Australia.

Recommendation 37

The Committee recommends that the operation of the new system of overseas assessment due to be in place in the five target countries by July 2007 be assessed by a tripartite group comprising industry, union and public service representatives.

Recommendation 38

The Committee recommends that Trades Recognition Australia transfer officers to state and territory Overseas Qualifications Units (or their equivalent), where justified by demand, to provide direct liaison with all stakeholders to assist in the implementation of the Council of Australian Governments reforms.

Recommendation 39

The Committee recommends that, during the period leading up to the introduction of new offshore processing arrangements, Trades Recognition Australia (TRA) expand its international telephone service hours to improve access for the five main source countries for trades. In addition, TRA should ensure that telephone contact from within Australia can be made to both its Canberra and Melbourne offices during normal business hours.

Recommendation 40

The Committee recommends that the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulations Act 1946 be repealed, and Trades Recognition Australia cease to conduct domestic assessments of skills in the electrical and metal trades.

Recommendation 41

The Committee recommends that Trades Recognition Australia confine its activities to the international assessment of overseas qualifications for migration purposes, in line with the Council of Australian Governments directives to guarantee the quality of assessments and protection of Australian standards.

Recommendation 42

The Committee recommends that, subject to the Council of Australian Governments’ agreement, a state-based trade recognition system be instituted, based around the Australian Qualifications Framework, for those trades currently covered by the Australian Recognised Trade Certificate system.

6 International practice and agreements

Recommendation 43

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government continues to encourage and assist professional regulatory authorities to expand their use of bilateral and multilateral international mutual recognition arrangements, while ensuring that Australian standards are not compromised. In particular, the Committee recommends improved policy oversight to facilitate this initiative.

Recommendation 44

The Committee recommends that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade coordinate, on behalf of the Australian Government, an annual report to be tabled in parliament on international skills recognition and licensing arrangements. The report should cover the progress in establishing, implementing and monitoring inter-governmental mutual recognition arrangements, including the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangements, the Asia-Pacific Recognition Convention, the Lisbon Recognition Convention, the recognition measures in the free trade agreements and the General Agreement on Trade in Services.

7 Other issues in overseas skills recognition

Recommendation 45

The Committee recommends that:

a) applicants under the skills stream, employer sponsored (including Labour Agreements) and temporary visa categories such as the 457 visa be required to have vocational English as a minimum standard;

b) the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs specify the manner in which language proficiency is assessed; and

c) an independent evaluation be conducted to ensure that consistent standards of English language competence are being applied.

Recommendation 46

The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs extend its fee-free document translating service, to provide for three documents in each category for each eligible visa holder.

Recommendation 47

The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs explore local work experience initiatives in a further review of migrant settlement services in 2007.

The review should consider the development of new service options for migrants and humanitarian entrants that would allow them to gain work experience early on in their job search and provide them with scope to combine work experience with English language and other training elements, with a particular emphasis on workplace culture and use of technology. The role of professional bodies in providing transition to work programs should also be considered. This review would also look at English language training, particularly industry specific language courses.

Recommendation 48

The Committee recommends that the settlement process for those who have not undergone a skills assessment prior to arrival should include a listing of their qualifications and previous work experience, and that, subject to the individual’s agreement, this information be made available to those involved in provision of settlement services and to the relevant state or territory Overseas Qualifications Unit.

Recommendation 49

The Committee recommends that the Departments of Education, Science and Training, and Immigration and Multicultural Affairs undertake a scoping study on the potential of an online professional mentoring program targeting prospective skilled migrants in Australia. Such a program would recruit industry volunteers to provide general advice to prospective migrants on skills recognition, licensing, employment and related matters, based on the Canadainfonet model described in Chapter 6 of the report.

Recommendation 50

The Committee recommends that, given the lack of consolidated information on bridging courses around Australia, the Department of Education, Science and Training undertake a detailed audit of the availability of such courses, the costs and time commitments involved, the uptake rate of various courses and, most importantly, the success rates of bridging courses in enabling individuals with overseas qualifications to gain successful skills recognition. The results of the audit should be made publicly available—for example, on the Australian Skills Recognition Information website.

Recommendation 51

The Committee recommends the creation of a Higher Education Contribution Scheme type system to allow humanitarian stream entrants with some level of trade qualifications to undertake appropriate courses to enable them to work in their trade occupations.

Recommendation 52

The Committee recommends Job Network contracts be revised to enable the agency to assist eligible overseas qualified job seekers pursue (through additional training, for example) occupations in which they have existing skills and experience, rather than immediately place them in any position available, including unskilled positions.

Recommendation 53

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education, Science and Training conduct a review of t he Assessment Fee Subsidy for Disadvantaged Overseas Trained Australians to determine how well it is meeting the needs of humanitarian entrants and what could be done to improve its operation in this area, in terms of communication, coverage of occupations and the criteria for eligibility.

Recommendation 54

The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs monitor the use of English language tuition by humanitarian entrants and review the Adult Migrant Education Program to ensure that it meets the needs of humanitarian entrants.

Recommendation 55

The Committee recommends that the Departments of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and Education, Science and Training review the current processes followed by assessing authorities to determine if further steps need to be taken to combat document and identity fraud.

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