SME reaction to proposed 457 visa changes

Malcolm Turnbull has announced plans to scrap the 457 visa system, that allows businesses to source temporary skilled workers from overseas, and replace it with a scheme to train more Australians to fill these roles.

We spoke to a number of business leaders in the tech start-up space to gauge their reaction to the proposed changes and how it would affect their operations.

Rob Hango-Zada, Co-Founder of Shippit, believes hiring for start-ups and SMEs here in Australia is difficult due to skill shortages.

“Putting Australian jobs first is a great mantra,” Hango-Zada asks,“ but how does this prevent jobs from being sent offshore? In the corporate world, and more specifically in the tech space, offshoring is a common practice and in recent times 457 visas have meant that at least offshoring for specialised jobs is minimised. The Government needs to provide specific information about how this would impact key areas such as engineering and development.

“It’s good to see that skilled workers will still be catered for with the new ‘Temporary work visa’,” he adds, but would like to understand how the government can assist with recruiting for key areas with skill gaps.

“We need to establish Australia as a destination for skilled workers where Australia falls short in order for us to really own the innovation agenda on a global stage and prevent local brain-drain from Australia to the US and UK.

Shippit employs one of its 16-strong workforce on a 457 visa, that employee being an engineer.

Nick La, Co-Founder of on-demand recruitment platform Weploy, says the 457 visa changes would also impact his company’s own hires as they grow as a start-up.

“I think this is a great initiative,” La says, “as it can provide many more working opportunities to Australians who are looking to step into a career. From experience, typically 457 visa holders take the current lower-skill/labour-based temporary work purely because it’s all that they’re being accepted or considered for (which narrows job availability for Australians in this cohort).

“However,” he adds, “they would much prefer to be able to continue their expertise in temporary capacities, something that is difficult for them to do right now. By deploying skills to the right areas and addressing shortages, the change will free up more opportunities to Australians – whether it be building up work experience or simply earning a living.

”By providing a temporary visa focused more on specialised skill sets, Australia will be able to attract international talent, ultimately bringing our global level of excellence higher and up-skilling where required. This will hopefully motivate Australians to succeed even more and help to drive our innovation agenda by giving founders access to the right talent to grow startups.”

La says that it’s important the Government can present a strong case behind the 457 visa changes and is able to supply us with information on how it can benefit all parties.

“The changes also need to be well-communicated to the public because people don’t like change and negative assumptions can be made really quickly,” he concludes.

Luke Anear, Founder and CEO of SafetyCulture, is on the hunt for the best talent as the business grows, says that the issue hinges on supply and demand.

“We need a significant amount of skilled workers in order to support not only tech but all industries going through technology’s disruption,” Anear says. “The 457 program was a way for us to fill the gap between lack of skilled workers in Australia and finding experienced workers from overseas.

“The best and cheapest option is to have a suitably trained workforce in Australia from Australia and we just don’t have thatt yet. We need to be able to continue to meet the demand and also provide the labor force to meet Australia’s current opportunity.”

SafetyCulture employs 12 of its 80+ Australian staff on 457 visas in engineering, product designer and customer support roles.

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