The 457 visa debate ended abruptly in April last year in 2017 when many HR professionals (myself among them), learned on Facebook that the programme had been abolished in lieu of a more “Australians-first” approach, as proposed by the government.

Almost a year later, we are still waiting to hear what the actual implications of these changes are and the future for talent in the country looms uncertain.

Australia has already dropped four spots to 23rd in the 2017 Global Innovation Index, and we now have an alarming signal from the biggest tech giant, Google, that the talent vacuum has finally reached its peak.

In an article shared by Innovation Australia, Google shared their plans to revise their whole recruitment strategy. This should send a clear wake up call to people who were hoping that closing the doors to external talent would actually translate into the miraculous employment opening for local job seekers. It doesn’t work that way.

To be fair, most people have no reason to understand how skilled migration works and why the termination of the 457 programme actually does the opposite of what was announced.

It sounds simple, right? If we stop looking outside to fill local jobs, we have no choice but to look inside!But as I mentioned in a Smart Company article, finding skilled Australians to fill jobs isn’t an easy task.

The diverse BlueChilli team at our Christmas Party 2017

If it weren’t for Australia’s immigration laws, we wouldn’t have the amazing team at BlueChilli.

I thought that to move the conversation forward, and actually come up with a solution, it might be helpful to share the answers I’ve been giving to people about what my view – and by extension the views of BlueChilli – when it comes to the myths surrounding the skilled migration schemes in Australia.

I hope that sharing our experiences and connecting through our stories will speed up the process of solving this talent gap.

“Companies purposely seek out to hire 457 visa holders because it’s cheaper.”

This one is probably the most insidious since both halves of the sentence are patently false.

I have been in HR and recruitment for most of my 12 year career and I have yet to see a job ad that starts” If you are a 457 visa holder, please apply!” or “Only apply if you are a 457 visa holder!”  In fact, it is very rare that one will find that a candidate is not a resident before you assess their application, unless you specifically ask for that information beforehand.

The second part of the sentence implies that hiring international talent is somehow cheaper than sourcing someone locally. This is not true on a few fronts.

Firstly, most professions have a minimum salary requirement to protect immigrants from being underpaid. Secondly, there are fees and costs attached to the visa applications, and if you use a migration agent it cost thousands of dollars per employee. It is in fact more expensive, frequently in the technology and startup sectors, to employee a skilled visa holder.

So why do we go through all that expense and trouble to work in Australia? The answer is the only simple part of this equation:

  • Because inclusion drives creativity.
  • Because it opens our ecosystem to new markets.
  • Because it allows more diversity of thought, experience, background and skill into our talent pool.
  • Because it’s good business.

What can we do now?

Don’t lose hope.

The new skilled visa programme is set to be released in April – so there is a lot of time to make our collective voices heard.

Australia is way more inclusive than we often give ourselves credit for and the world needs to see that.

If we keep telling our stories, and joining hands in the fight, we can make sure that the world knows that Australia is open for business!   

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