Qualified migrants: A squandered talent pool

by Cameron Edmond08 Aug 2013

Many professionally qualified migrants are underused in Australia, due to significant barriers between them and securing positions, new research from AMES has found.

Barriers migrants are facing include a lack of knowledge about the local labour market and the Australian recruitment processes. Limited experience with Australian workplace culture and restricted access to networking has also proven a problem, in addition to overseas qualifications not being recognised.

In order to gauge the impact exposure to Australian workplace culture could have on job-seeking professional migrants, AMES has conducted a program – ‘Working the Australian Way’ – that introduced migrants to senior personnel from Australian organisations.

The migrants were then advised on how interviews were conducted in Australia, as well as given crucial insights into the workings of corporate cultures in Australia. Following the program, 73% of participants found positions.

“Attracting people with professional skills and qualifications is a significant objective of Australia’s immigration program,” Monica O’Dwyer, social scientists and author of the study, said.

“But in many cases these skills are going unused and we are missing out on potentially productive people who can bring new perspectives and unique problem-solving skills … we are seeing many of these professional migrants accepting jobs outside their skill sets or in roles well below their actual capacities,” she added.

The lack of professionally qualified migrants finding appropriate work at their skill level is a persistent problem in Australia, augmented by the lack of networking opportunities these workers have when entering Australia.

“Minorities tend to have very little network capital, so employers aren't accessing them as much. When they do interact, there's a lack of trust. It's not a race issue, but it takes time to get to know a particular group,” Dr Reza Hasmath, author of The Ethnic Penalty: Immigration, Education and the Labour Market, said.

Over-looking migrant workers can mean organisations are missing out on a strong and diverse talent pool, according to Glen Cathey, formerly of US-based Randstad Sourcelight.

“How many brilliant, high-potential people could be given the right opportunity to fully realise their potential, regardless of whether or not they were born into the right family, [or were] in the right place, at the right time?” he stated.



  • by GWH Lohrey 8/08/2013 7:09:09 PM

    Australians returning from posts overseas also experience most of these problems, so the issue is more complex and indicates an even greater waste of talent and qualifications.

  • by Laura Kassabian 13/08/2013 1:26:43 PM

    I worked at a recruitment agency for two months in the construction and engineering industry and I've had my fair share of "I only want candidates with at least 3 years of local experience," clients rejecting qualified potential candidates.

    Migrant workers arrive to australia on working visas and PRs only because of their qualifications and experience and then get extremely frustrated for not getting the jobs because of the lack of local experience. Some would take jobs way below their level of expertise and qualification. Such a disapointment and waste of talent.

  • by Sham 22/08/2013 10:41:56 AM

    Will there be more opportunities and forums such as " working the Australian way" available in Perth. It is indeed frustrating leaving your country with a wealth of experience working in world class organizations and having to struggle just to get an interview.

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