Turning the tide on skilled immigration

While we continue to talk about Australia's ICT skills shortage, more than 3,000 potential sponsorships are being blocked by impediments to the 457 visa scheme.

While we continue to talk about Australia's ICT skills shortage, more than 3,000 potential sponsorships are being blocked by impediments to the 457 visa scheme.

Sponsorship of skilled workers is an important source of workers for the ICT industry. In the past, 457 visa migrants help to bridge Australia's skills gaps, particularly in technical "hotspots" such as .NET, security, Java, C++, Siebel and SAP.

And yet, under regulations which took effect on 1 October, 2007, on-hire companies that seek to sponsor overseas skilled workers can only do so through labour agreements.

This means labour hire firms cannot sponsor 457 workers unless they meet their expenses, keep on their books a percentage of local workers who are receiving training, and invest at least two percent of their gross wages bill on training.

Before you say "but 457 visa applicants are taking Australians' jobs", consider this: since the introduction of the new laws, other countries have continued to recruit Australian ICT professionals. In the seven weeks that followed the laws, there was an outflow of Australians, but no inflow of ICT professionals in Australia.

Unless we turn the tide, we'll have no industry left.