Want to migrate to Australia? We’re open for business but should we be?

I would like to preface this post by saying I don’t have the answers. But I do think this is an interesting discussion and I am keen to hear your thoughts.

A recent Facebook post in the Library and Information Professionals group alerted me to the fact that librarian, library technician and records manager (as well as gallery and museum curators) are listed on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) 2017-18 Skilled Occupations List for Australia. What does this mean? It means that the Australian Government believes there is a genuine need for migrants with skills in this area.

Those who work within GLAMR sectors often discuss the competitiveness of the job market as is reflected in the comments on the Facebook post. I encourage you to read all of the comments (and they are still being added) but here are some examples of the comments:

I must be living in the only place in Australia that seems to be missing the adverts for all the librarian roles.

Hmmm as a, now nearly five months, unemployed librarian looking for work, that knows at least 4-6 others, this is bullshit!

Yes, where are the jobs? I’d like one and I’ve been in Australia for almost 40 years!

I know, we all know, that there are professionals unemployed and underemployed but is that the only side to the story?

I have spoken with managers who have struggled to fill roles with suitable candidates despite huge piles of applications and there are library services outside of capital cities who struggle to get internal and external applicants for leadership positions. I also know of people who won’t apply for jobs unless they are permanent positions.

Lots of questions come to mind with all of this information:

  • Should we be more willing to move for a job especially to regional and remote areas?
  • Should we be more willing to embrace temporary roles?
  • How do we encourage more of us to pursue leadership positions?
  • Do we have the skills that organisations and recruiters are looking for?
  • Are we terrible at selling ourselves in applications and interviews?
  • Are there jobs by other titles that require the skills of GLAMR professionals that we are not applying for?
  • Are organisations underpaying migrant workers [as suggested in one comment on the Facebook post]?

I would also like to add that having individuals from diverse backgrounds can be a wonderful addition to the workplace. Considering how diverse the communities we serve are shouldn’t we be embracing those with different backgrounds and experiences? And as someone who hopes to embrace opportunities to work oversees during my career  I understand the opportunity this offers to those like me.

I don’t have the answers, I am sure none of us have all the answers, but clearly the issue is not a simple one. What do you think? The GLAMR sector is open for business but should we be?

Open for business?

4 comments

  1. Sometimes life circumstances mean you can’t relocate – I am unable to move because I have children under a shared custody arrangement. I started off with casual and contract work and I definitely haven’t passed up the opportunity to work contract, but I made a decision a short while back that I couldn’t take a full time contract, if the role was full time it had to be ongoing, due to the impact it would have on my partner’s work and needing to manage sustainability. When you’re suddenly responsible for providing for a family of 5 short term contract work is incredibly stressful and can cause a deterioration in mental health.

    The other issue with contract work, and this I’ve experienced personally, is that you miss out on PD opportunities that ongoing staff members are able to access. The workplace is unlikely to say yes to you doing a project management course if your contract is up in a few months. Why waste the money on someone who isn’t going to be around to use those skills? You may start a really awesome project and then have to abandon it because your contract isn’t renewed. On the one hand, you miss out on developing valuable professional skills, and on the other, the workplace misses out on those skills and the outcomes of your project. So I don’t think we should, as a professional body, be settling for contract work as an inevitable thing we should just accept. I don’t really have an issue with contracts of a year and over in specialised areas. I think they would be a great way of developing skills and specialisation, but I also think employers need to be more willing to invest in potential instead of demanding that employees possess years of experience in said niche role.

  2. I think there are plenty of Australian library staff looking for work, without having to look overseas. Brisbane particularly doesn’t have a lot of opportunities. Perhaps employers aren’t getting the word out there enough?

    • I think there are more opportunities out there than most people realise especially in the “hidden job market” or the unadvertised roles. http://nextsteps.unimelb.edu.au/?a=705193

      There are also jobs that require library skills but aren’t labelled librarian and library technician and are not based in a traditional library setting.

      And maybe we need to be more okay with the gig economy (short-term and contract roles) if this is what the industry requires.

      • So many people can’t take short term and gig work (I’m one of them). Pay for permanent roles is already low in GLAM industries (with still existing inequality between pay for men and women). Casual and short term work can keep those wages low and further entrench inequality. These roles may work for the industry but not for workers in the long run. Library managers need to think critically about how much casual and short term employment they offer, and work to find opportunities to provide stable contracts for their (usally female) workers. In an age of volunteer run and staffless libraries (UK & Ireland) we need to safeguard against a growing divide between the people who lead our industry and the workers who are asked to shoulder most of the changes to short term/casual work.

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