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Skilled visa changes don’t go far enough, more transparency required

SYDNEY, 19 April, 2017: - Any moves by the Federal Government to improve the system by which skilled labour is imported to Australia is a positive outcome in the view of the ITPA.

We support the notion that there will always be the need for some additional skilled workers to be sourced internationally and believe that under a properly regulated system this is a good thing for the local IT industry.

However, we also have concerns that there are some serious anomalies in the IT industry under the existing 457 Temporary Visa system.

For that reason, we think that the proposed changes don’t go far enough and we also feel that there is a need for much more transparency to be applied to the application process, the involvement of visa agents and the granting of visas to successful applicants.

Many IT jobs have now been removed from the list of roles that are eligible to apply for 457 visa fulfillments but there are still many that should also be removed (e.g. ICT customer support officer, network administrator and systems administrator).

These roles are all tradition industry entry points for IT graduates many of whom are currently finding it hard to find work in the industry.

Is the Government seriously suggesting that it is not possible to source IT support officers and network managers in Australia? If there is shortage of specific skills in this area, the ITPA is happy to help set up skills development programs for the many IT graduates who can’t get jobs.

IT organisations need to be discouraged from employing cheaper overseas personnel for these roles and instead encouraged to set-up internship relationships with tertiary education institutions where these skills can be taught on the job.

The Government should be providing incentives for Australian IT organisations to employ local graduates and provide them with continuous on-the-job training.

Transparency is another important component of a better skilled visa program. We understand that IT is a complex industry and that some skills will always have to be supplemented with overseas personnel as the skills are not available locally.

ITPA thinks that independent industry associations such as the ITPA should be able to readily scrutinise all positions advertised (skilled worker visa applications) as looking for international candidates, so that we can help verify if they are justified.

We are keen to see more data on exactly what skills are in short supply, so that we can work with other industry stake-holders - such as business and tertiary education institutions - to develop new training opportunities, degrees and certification programs that help fill the holes.

We want to see a system that sees IT students graduating with the skills that are in demand from industry and an industry that prioritises these graduates over international options.

It is great to see that the government has recognised there are issues with the 457 visa program as it stands, and that changes are proposed.

We are optimistic that better outcomes can be achieved, but believe that greater industry consultation is required, particularly with the ICT sector to ensure that any new program provides improved outcomes for Australian workers and businesses.

We are happy that the Government appears to have listened to what we, and other industry professional organisations have been telling them about how the skilled worker visa system is being rorted at the expense of local workers.

We would hope for a bipartisan approach from agencies and political parties to eradicate fraud and achieve genuine improvements in the system.

The IT industry is one of the largest contributors to 457 visa growth and exploitation. Details are still very thin on just what the Government intends to do to make the skilled worker visa system more transparent and fair but we generally support this latest political rhetoric that says changes are required.

We look forward to seeing the structure of a proposed replacement visa system and are more than willing to work with agencies to apply more scrutiny to existing practices and get better local employment outcomes in the IT industry.

We also support moves to create more effective development pathways and industry work opportunities for local IT graduates so that they present as candidates with the type of skills and experiences that are in demand by the IT industry today and tomorrow.

ITPA is undertaking ongoing investigations into 457 visa fraud and other issues occurring in the IT industry including several FOI requests and we will be releasing those findings when completed.

- Robert Hudson, President ITPA

For more information or comment, contact:

Robert Hudson, President, ITPA - 0408 860 595

Martin Hale, Director, ITPA – 0419 322 844

The Information Technology Professionals Association (ITPA) was formed in 2016 as an evolution of the System Administrators Guild of Australia (SAGE-AU), which was founded in 1993. Since launching ITPA has grown to now include over 8000 members. Led and populated by IT professionals who are currently working in the industry, ITPA aims to be a trusted source of advice, knowledge and information about the IT industry for enterprise, government, media and society. It is in tune with the latest industry developments, focused on growing career opportunities for Australian IT professionals and willing to challenge government policy that inhibits the growth of the Australian IT Industry.