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AgLife: Open doors to skills solution

Almost every business conversation I hear today ends up in discussion about how difficult it is to find employees. 

It’s across all sectors – including hospitality, healthcare, banking and finance and definitely agriculture.

Some years ago, when we needed a mechanic to join us at Wimmera Grain Co, we advertised through all the usual channels. 

There was one response, from someone who’d never lifted a spanner but thought it might be fun.

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A chance conversation outside an Indian restaurant in Melbourne led us to meeting Inderjeet.

Inderjeet owned a small farm in Punjab, but he was living in Melbourne and working as a mechanic for a trucking company in Laverton. 

His wife and young children were still in India, looking after the farm.

We invited him up to Rupanyup to work a few weekends, to let him get to know us and us get to know him.

We soon offered him a position under the sponsored visa program. 

Each party commits to a minimum of two years employment and if completed successfully, it opens a pathway to permanent residency for the employee.

I really like Inderjeet. He is a lovey man. Respectful, honest and hard working. 

One day he came into the office and asked for two weeks leave without pay. He had to go back to India. The neighbouring farmers had encroached on his land. 

They ignored his wife’s efforts to remove them.

The incident highlighted the sacrifice Inderjeet and his family were making to try to build a better life. He is living in rural Australia establishing a new career. 

His wife and children are 10,000km away, fending off greedy neighbours. 

It made me realise that, other than indigenous Australians, we’re pretty well all descendants of people who came here to build a better life. 

Wave after wave of people have moved here in search of something better. They were often escaping poverty or war. 

They were hungry to seize the opportunities this country presented.

It’s this collective aspiration, this desire to build a better life, that ensures Australia continues to punch above its weight globally.

We’ve used the sponsored visa program to find employees a few times now. 

Some have only stayed with us three or four years; some, eight years. 

It’s not a simple process but, without exception, it’s helped us find great people. 

And when you hear their individual stories, the hardships they’ve left behind and their optimism for a new future in Australia, you realise everyone wins.

An expanded sponsored migration program has to be a part of solving the current chronic skills shortage. 

The old catch cry of ‘Australians for Australian Jobs’ is not relevant in a time of such low unemployment.

We have the jobs and we have the space. 

We have willing employers and welcoming communities. 

We just need some sensible government policy to make it happen.

The entire July 27, 2022 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire July 27, 2022 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!