Shuffling of Skilled Workers Visas Not Addressing Challenges for Local Graduates
Statement from ITPA President, Robert Hudson -firstname.lastname@example.org- 0408 860 595
July 10, 2017, SYDNEY – News that Australia’s immigration authorities are again tinkering around the edges of its skilled migration visa policy is not a satisfactory response to the number of workers from overseas that are being bought in to fill low level IT jobs in Australia.
Adjustments to the skilled worker immigration program include discontinuing the previous 457 visas and replacing it with two categories of skilled worker immigration visas - one for two years with no opportunity to apply for permanent residency and a longer four-year visa.
Many categories for IT workers have been slotted into one or the other but it is not solving one of the biggest problems faced by local IT Professionals and that is the ability to get a start in the industry.
Subsequent recent shuffling of a few categories from one section to the other in response to successful industry lobbying means that effectively there is no significant change to the system. Small, medium and large employers of IT staff are still able to access overseas labour - even low-level IT jobs - and save money on wages.
Traditional entry level positions such as IT support, systems administration and software and system testing are still easily filled by international workers, many of whom are prepared to work for lower than market rate wages.
Is the government seriously telling us that Australia companies are unable to find anyone in Australia capable of filling roles such as ICT customer support officers or software testers?
Level 1, ICT support positions are the key starting points for tertiary educated IT graduates to begin their careers as IT professionals. By allowing these roles to be filled by international workers, the industry is effectively denying local graduates from getting a start in the industry.
That is why we find so many IT graduates are unemployed or working in other industries. There are just too few jobs of this nature being offered to graduates, yet people are being brought in from overseas to do the work.
If local IT graduates are unable to find work in the IT industry, a reality which is currently at endemic proportions, then the next generations of students will not bother to study information technology and pursue careers in this industry.
As an organisation that represents the interests of IT professionals in Australia, we are sick to death of empty rhetoric about “jobs and growth” and investing in a “smart economy” which is not backed up by policy that walks this talk. We are keen to see Government policy that encourages industry to employ local IT graduates and that helps to fund a tertiary education sector which produces graduates with the skills that are in demand from the industry today and in the future.
Without significant change to the current system - even in its refreshed format - we fear for a future where all IT employees are recruited from overseas because there is no workforce being created locally. That is not good for local industry in the long-term and it is not good for the broader economy because of lost wages, income tax and retail spending.
Does the Government really want to ensure that in the future all IT workers in Australia will be brought in from overseas? If employers can simply get experienced workers from OS who are willing to work for less than a fair wage that would reasonably be expected for entry IT support work, no matter how work-ready they are, local graduates are never going to be able compete for employment.
ITPA believes that there should be complete transparency on all skilled IT visas granted. There should be an independent verification system (ITPA is keen to be closely involved) that confirms the jobs being filled by skilled work visa applicants are indeed beyond the skills pool that exists in Australia.
In addition, such checks and balances are needed to ensure that all IT positions claiming the requirement of skilled migrants are indeed being first advertised to local graduates and that they are not being offered at reduced rates to overseas workers.
The ITPA (again) asks that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection make all applications for skilled immigration be made public so that all the hundreds of local IT Graduates unable to find their first job in the IT industry have a chance of applying for the positions.
As an example of the challenges faced by local IT graduates, consider the recent IT support position that was offered by Melbourne-based company IT Masters.
Martin Hale, CEO of IT Masters said that he received 244 applications for the single new IT support role they advertised. Nick Mika, an IT student at Melbourne University was employed from the recruitment process, said he was very lucky to get the job.
“Very few of my fellow students at university have managed to find a job in the IT industry,” Mika said. “I know how lucky I am because there are so few entry level positions like this advertised.
“I have learnt heaps in my 12 months of IT Support at IT Masters and reckon it will be great launching pad for the rest of my IT career.’
IT Masters’ Hale said that the benefits of employing locals goes both ways.
“It would have been easier for us to get someone from OS with more experience who would have been willing to work for less,” Hale said. “However, I believe we have a responsibility to support the development of local talent.
“I can’t understand why on one hand the government is encouraging kids to go to University, watching on as they accumulate significant debt for the privilege and then on the other hand effectively ensuring that, as graduates, they do not have access to the jobs they need to get a start in the industry.
“Nick had been a great addition to the Company and his enthusiasm has been infectious. Because we are an SME, I suspect the IT Masters won’t have the challenges he thrives on to keep a talent like Nick in the long term but when he is ready, we will help him apply for positions in more complex environments.”