Border businesses are losing millions of dollars of work and towns are unable to grow because companies cannot fill vacancies, let alone expand operations.
Speaking at a public hearing of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration, managing director of Kotzur, Andrew Kotzur, said their inability to fill positions with Australian staff and the halt on skill migrants due to COVID, was preventing the business and Walla community from growing in line with demand.
"As a business we know our five year strategic plan simply cannot be fulfilled unless we can find the people and skills, we anticipate we will require a further 45 to 50 employees in the next three to five years," he said.
"As a small community, with 700 people in our town, I strongly believe our opportunity to grow our community and get some additional critical mass to improve our services, for example getting a local grocery shop or supermarket, is being inhibited by the fact we can't grow our business or other businesses in town can't."
Currently the company is fully booked for the entire 2021 calendar year.
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"We are currently quoting lead times of up to 10 months," he said.
"We know our inability to supply, mainly because of our current lead times, means we that potential clients of ours are sourcing imported options.
"In the next nine months we'll have probably forgone $10 to $20 million of work."
Regional Development Australia Murray chief executive Edwina Hayes said Albury's MacFab had told her they lost $4 to $5 million in sales due to vacancies limiting production.
"In their factory shed they have areas that aren't working, that are closed," she said.
Mr Kotzur estimated the administrative costs of hiring and settling a skilled migrant was $33,200.
"Businesses that go down the path of skilled migration do so out of desperation and do incur significant additional costs," he said.
Mr Kotzur emphasised Kotzur had been proactive in hiring 17 trainees or apprentices, as well as refugees and older or disabled employees, but were still unable to fill 15 vacancies in Walla and five in Tocumwal. The company currently employs 170 employees across two sites, including four people hired through the skilled migration scheme.
Mrs Hayes' Riverina counterpart, Rachel Whiting said the region desperately needs more skilled workers now.
"I've spoken to businesses that have orders for work six to nine months in advance and they just cannot find the workforce to fill those orders," she said.
Mrs Hayes said every industry from trucking to construction were struggling to fill jobs due to the COVID-induced lack of skilled migration and increased competition for workers.
"The businesses I checked in with from February to March 2021 had a doubling of job vacancies," he said.
All three witnesses called for a simplification of the skilled migrant process.
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