what this means for Philippine IT and Engineering professionals applying under the SkillSelect Visa program?
There are not enough Australians available to maintain our online economy and immigration rules should be loosened to allow companies to import web workers, the boss of one of the country’s biggest tech companies says.
REA Group chief executive Tracey Fellows said Australia is “tapped out” of computer science graduates, meaning the “biggest inhibitor” to the company’s growth was accessing talent to engineer and maintain its websites, including realestate.com.au.
And if we can’t get the skills here in Australia … we will go to other places and do it there.
REA Group chief executive Tracey Fellows
For example, Ms Fellows said REA – which is 61 per cent owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation – was able to “very easily” find 100 developers for its Chinese offshoot. Whereas finding five web designers in Australia took “months of work”, she said.
Ms Fellows praised the free-trade agreements recently struck with China, Japan and Korea, but said the government needed to improve IT and Engineering labour mobility throughout the Asian region like the Philippines to help companies such as REA prosper.
“Our business is entirely an IP [intellectual property] business, in that it is entirely human-capital based,” she said at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) luncheon in Melbourne on Monday.
“The promise of the FTA is it enables … fences around countries to come down. [But] from the point of view of an Australian company, one of the biggest challenges we face is access to skills. We are almost tapped out in being able to find the skilled resources that we need.”
“And if we can’t get the skills here in Australia … we will go to other places and do it there.”
Despite technology companies being at the centre of the digital revolution with strong growth prospects, Ms Fellows said computer science and engineering “for whatever reason” were not appealing career options for local students.
But here in the Philippines those jobs are highly regarded and its universities were helping meet the demand.
“And we are a well-recognised brand. We are a well-recognised employer of choice that has exciting and interesting work that people like to do and that pays well.
It’s just supply and demand. Demand far exceeds supply and this is where the Philippines IT and Engineering SkillSelect applicants could take advantage of the demand in Australia for these professions.”
Ms Fellows’ comments came after CEDA chief executive Stephen Martin said the government would expand the labour mobility agreement it shares with New Zealand to countries in Asia.
Professor Martin said Australia had been “educating the best and brightest of Asia’s developing economies” for the past 50 years. He said those students have now become researchers, policy decision-makers and business leaders in their respective home countries, and Australia should be able to tap into that talent including the Philippines.
“Just as the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangements enabled free movement of workers and expanded the pool of skills available between Australia and New Zealand, Australia could benefit from actively seeking skilled labour between other appropriate Asian countries, such as the Philippines”
“Obviously, Australia would need to proceed with caution but this type of agreement does have potential to deliver benefits.”
Potentially the Philippines could be a country that Australia could look into to encourage SkillSelect applications in the IT and Engineering sectors given its close proximity, cultural and historical ties and similarities and role as a regional hub.
Although Australian companies can access Temporary 457 visas to fill labour shortages after it has proved that it cannot find Australian workers to do the job, however, a more robust campaign under the SkillSelect application program of permanently residency should also be perused in countries like the Philippines to catch up and try and plug what is becoming a very concerning short fall of IT and Engineering positions within Australia.
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