Part of Professionals Australia

Professionals Australia welcomes reforms to 457 visas

Professionals Australia has welcomed a package of reforms that aim to ensure that employees on a temporary visa are used only where there is a genuine shortage of skills.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

CEO of Professionals Australia Chris Walton said he had lobbied the Government for changes to the 457 skilled workers visa program to ensure some employers were not choosing temporary workers instead of employing qualified Australians and actively developing skills of the next generation of professionals.

However he said in the future Australia should not have to rely on large numbers temporary visas to plug our skills gaps.  He said for decades successive governments had ignored Australia's general shortage of engineering skills resulting in an over-reliance on engineering skills from overseas.

The latest figures show that just over 25 per cent of Australia's new engineers are on a temporary visa while Australian domestic graduates comprise just 32 per cent, with the rest being international student graduates and engineering migrants.

“457 temporary visas should only be used as a last resort when unforeseeable shortages occur, rather than a shortcut to developing and utilizing Australians,” Mr Walton said.

“While we welcome these changes from the Federal Government, we cannot continue to rely on temporary skilled workers to plug Australia's skills gaps.

“Temporary workers are often a lazy shortcut and create a soft option for governments and employers, who should be developing the next generation of professionals.

“We need longer term thinking and a long term plan to solve our engineering skills shortage so we have the engineers we need to keep our economy productive and to maintain Australia's renowned quality of life.

“Australia should be doing more to develop the skills of Australian based engineers including young engineering graduates and migrant engineers before turning straight to the 457 visa program.

“There are many engineers who are not working in their profession and they should be actively encouraged and supported to pick up these positions.”

Mr Walton said too often Australian engineers were being replaced by 457 workers despite Australia's shortage of engineers being a recognised problem for years.

“If 457 visas are necessary in some circumstances, it is essential that we then develop and implement new strategies to develop local talent to close these gaps in the future.”

He said it was also essential that employers using a 457 visa pay at least the market rate and commit to serious training programs.

"The current practice of some unscrupulous employers committing to proper training, but not actually doing it must end,” Mr Walton said.

The proposed reforms provide for a tougher test to ensure that 457 visas are used to meet a genuine skills shortage, greater resources to monitor employers, and closing loopholes that allow foreign workers to be paid less than market rates.

Mr Walton said Australia should also consider the moral issues where engineers come from developing countries, suggesting we cannot keep taking the best engineers from some of the countries that need them most.

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