The government has increased the total permanent migration visa cap to 195,000 a year in a bid to address skills shortages.

Of the 195,000 total places, 142,400 will be given to skilled workers, 52,500 for families, and a further 100 for the ‘special eligibility’ stream.

Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison lowered the cap from 190,000 to 160,000 in 2019.

The government is preparing a “comprehensive review” into the migration system, due to begin in the coming weeks, that is set to hand down its finding as early as February 2023.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil described changes to the skilled migration system as “a turning point in our history".

“Our immigration system can be a powerful promoter of Australia’s open, free, prosperous, democratic society around the world, so let’s start giving that system the love and care that it needs.”

The government will dedicate an extra $36 million over the next nine months to fix a visa processing backlog that caused lengthy delays which ballooned to a visa waiting time of 15 months in some cases.

An extra two years will be added to the post-study rights of international students who graduate from Australian universities with degrees in “verified skills shortage” areas.

The post-study work visa will be going up from two to four years for applicable bachelor’s degrees, from three to five years for masters degrees, and from four to six for PhDs.

“At the moment, only 16 per cent of international students stay on after their studies end,” said Education Minister Jason Clare.

“This will mean they can stay on longer and use the skills they’ve gained in Australia to help fill some of the chronic skills shortages we have right now.”

The added incentive to stick around isn’t a guaranteed solution to Australia’s local IT skills shortage, however, given the difficulty many international IT students have found in turning their local qualifications – which involved paying good money to Australian universities – into jobs.

Students previously told Information Age about their struggles getting a foot in the door without previous experience, their qualifications alone not sufficient even in a hot labour market, and the impossibility of getting a graduate position without permanent residency.

Climbing the Skills Summit

Migration is only part of the new government’s approach to updating Australia’s workforce which was the feature of last week’s Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra.

A gathering of state and federal politicians, business leaders, unions, and industry groups, the Skills Summit has resulted in a set of actions and objectives for the government.

Some of these were announced pre-election, like the 465,000 fee-free TAFE places, of which 180,000 are set to be available next year.

To help smooth the transition for new tech workers, the government has proposed a ‘digital and tech skills compact’ to get commitment from employers to sign up a proportion of their new employees through a digital apprenticeship scheme.

ACS CEO Chris Vein welcomed the compact, saying it was “an important measure to help address the nation's digital skills shortage and get more Australians into high paying and secure IT jobs”.

“We look forward to working with the federal government in delivering this program and working with the federal and state governments in developing more initiatives to get Australians from all backgrounds and regions into the sector,” Vein said.

Another government outcome from the Jobs and Skills Summit was a commitment to provide 1,000 digital technology traineeships for the Australian Public Service with a focus on upskilling First Nations people, women, older Australians, and Defence Force personnel.

The government is also working with the Tech Council of Australia, a young lobby group representing the interests of Australia’s largest technology companies, to deliver a “free national work experience program” for secondary students to test out careers in tech.