As we emerge from COVID-19 with high hopes and ambitious plans for border openings, internally as well as globally, we need to seriously consider the ongoing situation that presents us with both challenges and opportunities.

COVID19 exposed our nations and our State’s vulnerabilities as it relates to having the skilled workforce required to support the growth of our economy and of our communities.

Our population and supply of labour for existing and rapidly growing businesses both in the SEQ patch, as well as our more regional and remote locations, needs to be resolved.

What appears to be occurring throughout Queensland is a huge demand for labour, skills and in some regions a population base to fill the expanding number and diversity of jobs available and waiting to be filled.

In these unprecedented labour market conditions we typically would look to secure a range of offshore workers through a range of migration programs
to assist to meet these demands. However, with the impacts of the current pause to migration still to be felt in the short to medium term, and the changed practices of business looking to build workforces locally, we have a unique opportunity to look internally to those migrants and refugees who are onshore with the capacity, skills, qualifications and aspirations to fill these vacancies and meet immediate demands.

Queensland has a rich asset base sitting within its diverse communities just waiting to be unleashed. People who have settled here either recently or within the past years bringing with them overseas qualifications, skills, global experiences and a hunger to work that are worth investing in now to provide that much needed and highly desired opportunity to work in their fields of study or expertise. This includes young people, many of whom have completed their studies onshore and have achieved advanced levels of qualifications within our own universities and other higher educational institutions.

What is needed is a planned, well-coordinated and strongly supported approach to identifying, engaging and placing this group of individuals and families into the jobs and regions where they might finally find their safe and successful landing place in Queensland.

I regularly attend community meetings where key phrases about wanting to find a job remains a high priority for those in attendance. Hearing phrases like “I just want a job” or “I want to use my qualifications and skills in a meaningful way here” should be heard and listened to with careful attention as we seek to find the most appropriate way to untap and leverage this potential population and labour force supply to meet the current workforce needs.

Will it require investment to activate this approach? The answer is Yes! Are there existing resources and agencies who can assist to do this? The answer again is Yes! There are programs, training dollars, specialised migration and settlement agencies poised and waiting to assist. There is a keen interest from many sources that are ideally placed and ready to seize this opportunity right now, but we need to understand this will require specialist providers in the areas of diversity to put these actions in place with a coordinated and collaborative approach involving three levels of Government, the business and community sectors all working together to make this a reality.