A key weakness with the government’s proposal to overhaul the working visa scheme has been uncovered, threatening some of the country’s fastest growing industries.
Following his joint submission to government on the impact of 457 visas with StartupAUS, TechSydney CEO Dean McEvoy said the problem with having visas based on particular skills is that fast-changing industries are creating new roles faster than regulations would be able to keep pace with.
“At present many of the new positions in tech companies such as growth hacker and product manager are not even on the skills lists. Four years ago, roles such as machine learning and artificial intelligence engineer or developer didn’t exist as a job title. In another four years, there will be many new roles. How do we cater to this demand?” he said.
While welcoming of the move to reduce 99 different visas to more standardised 10 visas, and the reduced complexity this would have on employers and workers alike, Mr McEvoy said technology-related roles are being created in a diverse range of industries, meaning the impacts of acute skills shortages could have far-reaching consequences.
“This is not just a start-up phenomenon; the biggest corporates in Australia are heavily reliant on tech talent, and it is imperative that we create the correct conditions for attracting and retaining international technical talent to populate and support these industries,” he said.
In the submission, TechSydney used LinkedIn Data to show that while nearly a third (32 per cent) of tech hires were directly within the technology industry, other large sources of technology roles can be found in finance (12 per cent), manufacturing (9 per cent), education (7 per cent) and even within government itself (6 per cent)
“The Australian economy is at a critical junction, and we need to compete with offshore interests,” Mr McEvoy concluded.
“We have one opportunity to get this right – incrementalism will not deliver for industry.”
The 457 visas have been a hot topic since the government’s announcement that they would be gradually phased out, with industries as diverse as fintech to hairdressing fearful of what will happen to already chronic skills shortages once the changes take full effect early next year.
It is also not just foreign workers on the ground who may be locked out of Australia, with Russell Zimmerman of the Australian Retailers Association questioning how executive and leadership roles in Australia can be developed without the benefit of working alongside more experienced international professionals.
“Right at the moment, under a 457 visa, one of the headline items that’s in there is ‘CEOs: there will be some restrictions on CEOs being brought in’,” he previously told My Business.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.