Opinion

The 457 visa ban is good for Australia and could fix our marketing skills gap

ADMA CEO Jodie Sangster believes its high time Australia's visa program was overhauled. In this guest post, she argues dumping the out-of-date 457 could be exactly what the country needs to get its marketing skills up to scratch.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took to Facebook to announce his government’s plans to abolish Australia’s 457 visa program for temporary skilled migrants. In his Facebook video, Turnbull promised to replace the 457 visa with a new temporary visa that will only allow the “best and brightest” to work in the country. In addition, he said applicants of the new visa would be put through a stringent and rigorous process.

While many aren’t too keen on Turnbull’s take on things, I actually see a positive spin to it and welcome this move by the government.

Ultimately, skilled migrants are absolutely critical to the future of the Australian economy, but the truth is that Australia’s current 457 visa regime is out-of-date and not on par with how quickly the world’s global economy is growing. The job roles under which people can apply are antiquated and not reflective of the current market requirements in terms of skills or roles. For example, there isn’t even a category to bring data analysts/ scientist into Australia – skills which are so sorely needed. There is little rigour to test and determine whether applicants demonstrate the skills required or whether they just duplicate skills that already exist in the Australian market. I cannot stress enough that this change needs to happen quickly.

It’s high time that the country hit the reset button and revise the program so that the visa program delivers on what it intended to do – fill skills gaps in areas where there is currently a shortage of expertise. Taking this approach will benefit all industries and allow businesses to grow accordingly.

However, the devil is in the detail. Although the government has announced it’s abolishing the 457 regime, it has not provided any further details on the shape that the replacement regime will take. I find this concerning.

Moving forward, we need a program that:
• Has formal criteria against which to assess whether the skilled migrants are ‘skilled’ in the areas actually required by business. Therefore, a capabilities framework must be introduced so that applicants can be assessed against standards to ensure we are genuinely bringing in new talent to grow our economy;
• Allows businesses to fill genuine gaps when they arise;
• Encourages peer-to-peer learning so that skills are transferable and allows for growth as a country.

At ADMA, we are advocates for skills-testing and feel that this is a good way of tackling the Australian marketing industry’s skills gap issue.

On the whole, what is encouraging is the reference to training that Turnbull made. Australia has an opportunity to be a highly skilled digital economy – but we need to invest in it. People are the most important component and we are currently lagging behind. I’m really keen to see the government’s plans with regard to training and hope that we will see a substantial investment in this area. We must avoid doing too little, too late.

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