Too Many Cooks Spoiling The Skills Shortage Broth : Report

Too many cooks spoiling the skills shortage broth: report

Jewel Topsfield
The Age
April 1, 2009

DESPITE an explosion in the number of overseas students studying cooking to obtain permanent residence in Australia, few end up working as cooks, according to a report.

Migration experts, led by Monash demographer Bob Birrell, say only a minority of overseas students who do cooking courses attain trade-level skills and relatively few actually work as cooks once they obtain permanent residence. “This helps explain the continued shortage of cooks in Australia, despite the record intake of migrant cooks,” he said.

The academics have called on the Government to increase the training required of overseas cooking students so they obtained trade-level skills and “restrict the migrant flow of cooks”.

Dr Birrell said the Commonwealth had been reluctant to act because state governments were anxious to preserve the overseas student education industry.

The report, The Cooking-Immigration Nexus, said there had been a “meteoric rise” in enrolments of overseas students in cooking courses in Australia from 1019 in 2004 to 8242 in 2008.

The report said cooking had been on the migrant occupation in-demand list since May 2005, and the catering industry continued to assert that employers were desperately short of qualified cooks.

The number of private providers of cooking training had burgeoned, with 23 additions last year to the number of organisations accredited to provide certificate three courses in cooking in Victoria alone.

However, a high proportion of overseas students who actually want to be cooks tended to take on kitchen hand positions, because they did not have trade-level skills.

Industry experts said the skills of Australians who had completed a three-to-four-year cooking apprenticeship were far in advance of overseas students who had completed a one-year full-time cooking course.

But the report said there was no independent agency assessing the competency of overseas students who had completed the course, to ensure they had attained trade-level skills.

Migration Institute of Australia chief executive Maurene Horder said education courses should not be flagged as a backdoor to migration. Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the Government announced changes in December to ensure the skilled migration program delivered employer-sponsored migrants into jobs or equipped them with critical skills.