The number of applications to employ non-Australian IT staff through the 457 visa system is increasing. However, it's overly simplistic to argue those jobs could instantly go to Australian workers instead.
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The question of 457 visas has become a contentious issue since the current Federal government announced plans to tighten up regulations in this area, citing (largely undocumented) instances of abuses of the systems. IT is one of the areas in the firing line.
Though there aren't comprehensive figures on the number of IT workers, figures released over the weekend suggest that the level of IT workers employed via the 457 system are on the rise. Today's AFR quotes numbers from Federal immigration minister Brendan O'Connor as suggesting "a 68 per cent increase in 457 visas in the information technology industry, while vacancies for local IT workers were decreasing".
The problem here is a simple and obvious one: the skills available from local workers may not be the same as those businesses are currently importing staff for. One theme that emerges regularly when we report on IT career development is that if you have an in-demand skill, you'll have a wider choice of jobs and a healthier wage packet. Not all IT jobs are equal. It's not too hard to fill help-desk positions; it's very hard to find staff with deep experience in business analytics.
To solve that problem, we need better training. But cutting off 457 workers won't achieve that, and it may leave some workplaces short of skills they're willing to pay for. It's not a simple problem to solve, but it certainly isn't the case you can lump all IT pros in a single category and suggest we can fill that purely from local knowledge.