POSITIONS VACANT: Western Australia is looking overseas to take on hundreds of roles in the industry they are having trouble filling.
POSITIONS VACANT: Western Australia is looking overseas to take on hundreds of roles in the industry they are having trouble filling. Paul Kane

Immigrants the solution to fill empty driver seats

FOREIGN drivers and mechanics are seen as the best short-term hope to plug a major shortfall of heavy vehicle transport staff in regional Western Australia.

Western Roads Federation chief executive Cam Dumesny said the days of relying on the Aussie FIFO worker, who could earn up to $200,000 a year as a driver, seemed to be a thing of the past.

"It's a bloody hard job and takes a special type of person and people today want to be close to their favourite barista,” Mr Dumesny said.

He's hoping the recent decision by Minister for Population Alan Tudge to designate the Kalgoorlie- Boulder region as part of the Designated Area Migration Agreements will help alleviate a serious issue for the region.

The new arrangement will assist a range of industries including mining, engineering, construction, childcare and health, among others, helping to drive economic growth and fill critical employment gaps.

Covering 73 occupations, up to 500 people a year will be able to be sponsored over the five-year agreement through the new DAMA.

Mr Dumesny said recruiters were already fielding interest from heavy vehicle mechanics in the Philippines and from drivers in the Baltic states, Europe and the US.

"Many of our members in the Goldfields area, as with many regions of WA, have been struggling to attract and retain skilled staff, from drivers to heavy vehicle mechanics, needed to drive regional growth,” he said.

"This decision, when combined with the innovative WA industry-led training solution developed and now being refined by our WRF members, will help alleviate pressures on our members.”

Mr Dumesny said the Northern Territory had benefited from having the DAMA agreement, which many dual WRF members had utilised.

"We will be discussing with the NT Road Transport Association how we can potentially leverage the peak industry body sponsorship option under the DAMA,” he said.

With another estimated 1000-plus shortfall of staff in the Pilbara alone, Mr Dumesny said the industry must address the fundamental reasons why it was failing to attract new recruits.

As part of that process, the Freight and Logistics Council of Western Australia has commissioned a comprehensive study to find out what the public thinks of the role transport plays in their lives.

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