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Australia Looks to India to Solve Skilled Worker Shortage

Officials in Australia and India are considering a plan to train tens of thousands of Indian students to work in Australia's booming natural resources industries.

The idea being discussed among Australian and Indian officials, academics and business leaders is to establish Australian schools in India to train students for jobs in Australia's natural resources industry.

Qualified graduates would be allowed to go directly into jobs in the mining industry in Western Australia and Queensland.

In Canberra, the federal government is predicting a shortfall of more than 35,000 skilled workers in the resources sector by 2015.

Many economists believe Australia must increase its skilled workforce to meet the demand of the country’s mining boom, which is driven by China’s enormous appetite for iron ore and coal.

Christopher Joye, the chief executive of Rismark International, a financial advice company, says the solution to Australia’s labor market problems lies overseas.

"We’re an immigrant nation. A quarter of all Australians were born overseas. Forty per cent of us has a parent born overseas and it is very, very important that given we are such a high growth country with very, very high potential that we continue to import the labor we require to support the economy," Joye said.

The New South Wales Business Chamber also advocates an increase in skilled migration, although that option may prove to be politically contentious in a country where the issue of immigration is always sensitive.

Australia's highly profitable mining industry is causing labor shortages in other parts of the economy.

Almost half of the companies in the nation's most populous state, New South Wales, cannot recruit enough qualified workers because they cannot match wage potential in the mining hubs of Western Australia and Queensland.

Lower skilled workers are also seeking jobs in the mining hubs, where salaries for caterers, drivers and mechanics can be up to three times what they are elsewhere.