Interview date: Wednesday 24 August 2022
We’re joined by the Chief Executive of Universities Australia, Catriona Jackson in Canberra. Catriona, nice to be with you this morning. Appreciate your time.
Look, we’re having dramas getting anyone in the country at the moment. Is it possible to get more in?
Look, there’s been a slowing in students coming back in, but we’re really hoping that’ll get sorted out pretty quickly. There are two really practical suggestions we’ve got, Karl and Ally, for the Jobs and Skills Summit. Number one is making sure there are really good options for those domestic students or for Australians just broadly, older Australians, to retrain and re-skill so they can just make sure that they’re ready to step into those really in demand jobs – in health or IT or teaching. But also, to keep a few more of those valuable international students. About 16 per cent of them stay on here after their degree so the vast majority go home. These guys have already made a huge investment in Australia and have a terrific world-class Australian education. We’d like to see a few more of them staying here in Australia and using that education here.
So would you like to see them fast-track visas for foreign students? And how many would you be looking at over the next 12 months?
We’d like the visa backlog to be cleared. It’s not just universities that have got a problem here, and it is a serious problem, there are delays all over the place. We’d like that system to work more smoothly. But we’d also like some serious consideration of the way the visa system works for international students coming in. At the moment, I don’t know if you know, but you have to sign a piece of paper saying you don’t intend to work in Australia. Which is kind of odd because 16 per cent of them do stay on and work here and become part of our fantastic multicultural country. We just want some tweaks to that visa system just to smooth the way so a few more percentage of those terrifically valuable students can stay here and take part in the workforce.
It is an odd thing given the shortage of workers out there. There are a couple of surveys done in the paper today that 60 odd per cent of Australia is worried about migration taking our jobs when there are clearly so many jobs available. But an alteration like this, how many people would we be talking about? And it sounds like a good idea, especially for the hospitality sector.
Look for hospitality Karl, but not just that, for IT and health. You walk into any hospital and a large number of people, from the surgeons and specialists to the nurses on the wards, come from overseas countries and have become really fruitful, really contributing Australians. So of course it’s really important to balance what we Australians in this country can do to fill these shortages. But also, and it’s not just unskilled jobs, it’s skilled jobs too. We must acknowledge, we can all see through Covid-19, that Australia has taken people from overseas and they have become terrific Australian citizens. That’s what makes up the multicultural country we live in. Just encouraging a few more of those students, really bright, and really hardworking, to stay on and make their home in Australia, and use their Australian education in Australia just seems to make sense.
There’s going to be some really interesting conversations at the jobs summit next week. Catriona, really appreciate your time, thank you.