Govt visa plan falls short for tech skills shortage

The government yesterday announced plans to bolster Australia's skilled migration program by providing an additional 6,000 places -- potentially a boon for the skills-starved tech industry -- but some believe the scheme doesn't go far enough.

The government yesterday announced plans to bolster Australia's skilled migration program by providing an additional 6,000 places -- potentially a boon for the skills-starved tech industry -- but some believe the scheme doesn't go far enough.

Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship made the announcement -- the Rudd government's second within a week targeting Australia's skills shortage -- saying the places will be offered as an "immediate measure" to remedy the nationwide skills shortage.

Liberal spokesperson for immigration, Senator Chris Ellison

The increases will be made up of permanent employer-sponsored visas and General Skilled Migration visas, which the 457 sub-class of visas falls under.

Steve Rogers, director of ICT recruitment firm Rusher Rogers, told ZDNet.com.au today that the visas will do very little to ease the current skills gap in the industry.

"The general view is that it's not going to make much difference at all, although 6,000 sounds like a good number it should be at least double that," he said.

Rogers added that not only should the government be offering more places as part of the initiative but also needs to reform visa application and processing procedures.

"It's all the red tape and regulations: in this day and age we need to get people processed in a couple of weeks rather than a couple of months. I'd really like to see a some kind of commitment to reducing that delay," said Rogers.

Senator Chris Ellison, Liberal spokesperson for immigration and citizenship, described the 6,000 places offered as part of the initiative as "a drop in the ocean", adding that "the new Minister does not fully appreciate the pressures on business to fill employment vacancies".

"It is critical that the new Immigration Minister act to make it easier for employers to fill job vacancies and also increase the places available under the skilled migration program," Ellison said.

ICT recruiter Rogers said that Australia is losing skilled IT workers to Canada, Norway and New Zealand due to their streamlined migration procedures, claiming that the New Zealand equivalent of Australia's 457 visa takes only two days to process.

"Norway and Canada get the lion's share at the moment, but New Zealand is also poaching some from our shores too. If the federal government was able to streamline its procedures it would make life so much easier not only for IT but across all sectors," he said.

Senator Evans' announcement comes after Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard unveiled the Skills Australia 2008 Bill in parliament last week, a measure aimed at tackling the skills shortage domestically by offering 450,000 new training places across all vocations over the next four years.

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