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457 visa workers are skilled, industrious and available: employers

Sylvia Pennington (via SMH) | July 19, 2013
Despite increasing disquiet over the use of 457 visas to import technology workers into Australia, employers have defended the practice saying it creates innovation and opportunity.

"If you attract talent, that creates innovation and opportunity."

Conversely, tightening the rules around importing staff may result in less work being done locally, C3 Business Solutions managing partner Cameron Wall believes.

"We need to make the process simpler, not tougher," Mr Wall said.

"If it's harder to get offshore resources onshore then people will consider offshoring more readily."

The number of ICT workers in Australia on 457 visas has risen from 5327 in 2009-10 to 9271 in 2011-12, despite slow times in the local technology market which show no signs of easing.

ICT recruiters say the market has been flat since 2012 and have warned IT professionals on the bench that they could remain there for months.

The broader jobs market has mirrored this trend - figures released earlier this week showed the jobless rate for June had hit a four year high of 5.7 per cent. It's been forecast to reach six per cent and beyond by year's end.

Meanwhile, the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency has called for additional young people to be funneled into the ICT sector after its ICT Workforce Study released last week found a major talent shortfall was looming.

Despite what appears to be a surplus of locally available ICT talent, the 457 program is still needed to plug the gaps between demand and supply, Peter Acheson, chief executive of recruitment firm Peoplebank CEO said.

"Technologies that didn't exist 10 years ago - how do you prepare for the shortage as a result?," Mr Acheson said.

"This is a problem somewhat unique to IT...it's very difficult to match supply and demand perfectly... I don't believe corporations are deliberately using 457 visas to keep costs down; they're using them to source difficult to find candidates - I think it's as simple as that."

Suzanne Campbell, chief executive, Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), has said 457 visa holders "not only fill real and immediate needs within ICT organisations, but also make a significant and positive contribution to the Australian economy - generating more revenue than cost."

 

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