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How does spatial and surveying depend on skilled migration?

In the lead up to last week’s Federal Budget, Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced proposed migration changes that restrict businesses’ ability to employ skilled migrants.

It has now been revealed that many of Australia’s spatial businesses are dependent on skilled migration to deliver innovative location-based services. The preliminary results from a survey conducted by the Spatial Industries Business Association/Geospatial Information and Technology Association (SIBA|GITA) have provided the first evidence of just how much skilled migration is used by spatial business in Australia.

The survey was conducted immediately after the federal changes were announced, and discovered that 41% of respondents have previously employed workers on skilled migration visas to work in spatial and surveying businesses. Almost two thirds of these were on 457 visas, which the government plans to replace.

Types of visas that have been used by spatial businesses to employ skilled overseas workers. More than half have used the 457, which the government plans to replace. Source: SIBA|GITA

While only 27% of spatial businesses currently use skilled migration visas, those who do are most commonly using 457 visas. This was followed by the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa, which appears to have grown in favour.

Types of migration visas currently utilised by spatial businesses to employ skilled workers.  Source: SIBA|GITA

Australia’s education pipeline was reported to be causing problems for spatial businesses looking for talent. A shortage of surveyors and spatial scientists, as well as a shrinking of training programs, is understood to be a key cause of concern for the industry. This is understood to be causing more businesses to look overseas to find talent.

As expected, it was found that surveyors and spatial scientists top the list for skilled migration in the spatial industry.

What is quite interesting to note, however, is that spatial businesses use skilled migration programs for a long list of both spatial and non-spatial roles, especially those in IT and executive positions. The survey found that these include:

  • Accountant
  • Analyst programmer
  • Cartographer
  • Chief executive or managing director
  • Chief information Officer
  • Company secretary
  • Computer and network systems engineer
  • Corporate GM
  • Developer programmer
  • Other spatial scientist
  • ICT project manager
  • ICT Trainer
  • Network administrator
  • Software and applications programmers
  • Spatial Science Technicians
  • Spatial Scientist (GIS Manager)
  • Surveyor
  • Systems administrator
  • Systems analyst
  • Technical writer
  • “Skilled migration is certainly an important issue for some organisations in our industry,” said SIBA|GITA CEO Deanna Hutchinson. “We need to know more, including being able to quantify skills shortages more effectively in the context of the broader job market, as well as within our industry.”

    “The role for skilled migration must be considered as part of overall workforce planning for the industry.”

    SIBA|GITA is still in the process of collecting responses, so if you would like to share your thoughts, please do so via the online survey.

    “SIBA|GITA, in collaboration with SSSI and Destination Spatial is working on collating the existing body of knowledge relevant to jobs and skilling needs, from which a more comprehensive workforce plan can be developed,” Hutchinson said.

    “Specific actions around skilled migration will form part of this plan.”

    As more results become available they will be reported here on Spatial Source and with SIBA|GITA members directly.

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