|Press Release - 30 April 2008|
On-Hire Industrys 1st Roundtable with Government on 457s
Representatives of Australias On Hire Industry, including peak bodies will meet with DIAC and DEEWR this week in the first roundtable discussion on the Governments recent changes to the 457 Visa Scheme. This includes the new Labour Agreement template the Government has introduced for On Hire Companies. This Agreement sets out their responsibilities and obligations not only to their overseas sourced workforce, but also the local workforce and economy in terms of investment in training and development.
The Industry Groups have been particularly vocal on the alleged impositions of the Labour Agreement obligations if they wish to employ workers on 457 Visas. This centres round a requirement to commit 2% of their wages bills to training and development. As the Government states, this investment is part of the stated goals of the 457 programme, where overseas skills should be utilised to re-skill the local workforce and participants should also look to reinvest in the Australian labour market as part of an overall strategy to address the skills shortage. Industry Groups claim this is unworkable from a commercial perspective and that it is financial unviable for Industry participants.
Sources in both the Government and Industry bodies acknowledge that there has been large number of On-Hire Companies apply for Labour Agreements under the new Scheme, however compliance has been an issue and to-date only a handful of Companies have been awarded Agreements. There are some On-Hire Companies that have seemed to be able to meet the obligations of the Labour Agreement. ICT recruiter, 3W Consulting Contracting Recruitment Pty Limited, was the first ICT On Hire company to be approved under the new Scheme. This contracting company sources skilled ICT professionals for Australian clients from the global market, particularly from the Philippines.
Andrew McCarroll, CEO of 3W says the Company took a positive approach to the Governments new Scheme and built the training and development obligations into its business strategy. We looked at our obligations under the Agreement and decided that engaging an overseas workforce would meet a number of goals. This included solving our clients skilled labour shortage problems and at the same time re-investing some of the profit we make on this Team to develop our local skills base. And its working. Since being approved for the Labour Agreement, we been able to commit ourselves to an Australian Apprenticeship Scheme focused on ICT. In the last month we have employed 6 full time IT apprentices who will receive a combination of on-the-job and formal training over the next two years.
Industry and Governments first meeting this Friday will look not only at the Labour Agreement mechanism, but also the process of approving 457 Visas. Whatever the outcome, many labour market observers note that Industry and Government need a cohesive plan to address what is estimated to be a skills shortage of around 240,000 skilled workers by 2016. Given every western country in the world is facing similar scenarios, the demand for overseas skilled workers for these countries is only going to intensify. Australia is in a fiercely competitive global skills market. It could very well be out bid by other countries for many skilled overseas workers and will need to look at a broader strategy including greater investment in training and development for its local talent pool.