Virginia, US
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| Hedvika Gibbs

New Graduate Occupation List: Is Western Australia Open for Business Again?

The new Graduate Skilled Migration List announced in Western Australia forms a key part of State's ongoing skills diversification strategy.

In Australia, State and Territory skilled occupation lists are used by the respective State and Territory Governments to identify occupations in demand and identify those eligible for nomination by the State or Territory Government under visa subclasses 190 (Skilled Nominated Visa) or 489 (Skilled Regional (Provisional) Visa). In June 2017, the Western Australia Government cut the majority of occupations from its Western Australian Skilled Migration Occupation List (WASMOL). Only 18 health sector occupations were retained. The sharp reduction of the WASMOL has had the dual effect of virtually halting Western Australia nominations under these two visa categories over the past financial year, as well as reducing the population of international students in Western Australia for international students by approximately 10% last year.

In a welcome ‘turn around’, the McGowan government announced in August 2018 that the current WASMOL list will be supplemented by a Graduate Skilled Migration List.  This will allow access to the State nominated categories for high-achieving education graduates—PhD, Masters, Honours and other higher degree graduates in the specified occupations.  Priority processing arrangements will also be offered for graduates from Western Australian universities. We understand that this initiative will be forming one of the pillars of the International Education Strategy for Western Australia, which will be launched at the end of this month. 

The details of the list and arrangements were released on 25 September and became effective immediately. The list boasts over 200 occupations and has the practical effect of reinstating the WASMOL as it was prior to June 2017. There is, however, one important difference: it is only open to graduates of higher education institutions in Western Australia. 

Ninety-seven of the occupations are open only to PhD and Masters graduates, with the remainder also available to Bachelor and Higher degree (Graduate Certificate or Graduate Degree) graduates.  Most of the occupations are available for both subclass 190 and 489 visas, but a small number are limited to the Skilled Regional (Provisional) option.  If a Western Australian higher education graduate wishes to apply for State Nomination, they will be required to demonstrate that they have completed at least two years of full-time university study in Western Australia. 

Previous policy settings required that those seeking an invitation for State nomination under Subclass 190 and 489 to have Australian or overseas work experience in their nominated occupation as well as a positive skills assessment outcome.  The revised policy waives the work experience requirement for Masters and PhD Graduates, although candidates with work experience will be prioritised.  This is excellent news for the State— ensuring it can compete with South Australia, for example, where the waiver of work experience requirements for high-performing graduates has supported the growth of specialized and highly skilled migration.

All candidates will need to demonstrate that they have a contract offering full time employment for at least 12 months in Western Australia in the nominated, or closely related, occupation.

The state specific Skilled Migration Occupation Lists afford an opportunity for State Governments to select specific occupations and industries that are uniquely important to their region. They play an important role in attracting key skills, particularly in priority areas. Regular review and active engagement with industry and education stakeholders is vital.

While the practical impact is yet to be seen, the latest announcement forms a key part of Western Australia’s ongoing skills diversification strategy and indicates that Western Australia is, once again, open for business and focused on competing for top talent. The opportunities for business in terms of being able to support graduate programs and address skills shortages will undoubtedly come as welcome news, especially as the administering government department has confirmed that any former graduates are eligible to lodge an Expression of Interest for occupations on this list, and this option is not limited to current students or only recent graduates.

The biggest ‘win’, though, and such an important one for the State, is that by providing a migration pathway for graduates from Western Australian universities, the McGowan government has taken active steps to reinvigorate the declining international student market in Western Australia.

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