Federal Government takes positive steps to reduce automotive skills shortage but regulatory red tape holds NSW back

The Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA) has successfully collaborated with the Federal Minister for Skills and Training, The Hon. Brendan O’Connor, to simplify the skills assessment process for migrants seeking to work or move to Australia. In a series of meetings, MTAA representatives discussed with the minister and his advisors about the automotive industry's significant skills shortage and the impact on member businesses.

As a result of their efforts, Trades Recognition Australia (TRA), which is part of the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, has implemented a new skills assessment process for several automotive occupations and specific countries. TRA's notification this week outlined the changes that will streamline the migrant skills assessment process for automotive technicians and help alleviate some of the bottlenecks and barriers that have slowed the process.

MTAA had emphasized to the government that the industry did not want shortcuts that would lead to a poorer skills base. Instead, they sought ways to reduce the time and costs associated with the current skills assessment processes. The minister agreed with MTAA's position that if other countries had qualifications equivalent to or better than those in Australia, additional assessment barriers should not be placed before applicants during a skills crisis.

Here are the five actions TRA has taken to help ease the process:

Firstly, from 1 March 2023, TRA has approved alternate assessment methods for TRA-approved Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) to service difficult-to-reach applicants, subject to meeting criteria set out in RTO contracts.

Secondly, from 1 April 2023, the only applicants required to undertake an Offshore Skills Assessment Program (OSAP) assessment for the occupations of Automotive Electrician, Motor Mechanic (General), Vehicle Painter, Diesel Mechanic, and Panel Beater, are those with a country of passport of Fiji, Hong Kong SAR, India, Macau SAR, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. Other passport holders with relevant qualifications in these occupations can now access the Migration Skills Assessment program (MSA), which is a cheaper option for applicants at $720 compared to the OSAP fees of $2,280 or $3,280.

Thirdly, planning is underway for an Expression of Interest among the existing TRA-approved Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) to identify additional assessors of the Motor Mechanic (General) and Diesel Motor Mechanic occupations to alleviate application demand pressure.

Fourthly, planning is underway to allow TRA-approved RTOs to accept alternate evidence of employment in specific circumstances in response to an emerging trend preventing applicants from being able to prove employment currency and length of experience.

Finally, TRA will engage with Home Affairs on the countries of passport for automotive occupations that require Technical Interviews (and qualification assessment where required) for a TSS visa. TRA underpins its requirement for the same standard of assessment via the OSAP program when applicants from the same country of passport for the same occupations apply for other than a TSS visa.

MTAA expressed its gratitude to Minister O’Connor and his team at Trades Recognition Australia for their dedication to this vital industry matter. With these changes, the automotive industry in Australia can look forward to a more efficient and accessible skills assessment process, enabling them to address the chronic skills shortage and ensure a brighter future for the industry.

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