Australia is currently suffering from a skills shortage. This is a fact.
In recent weeks the Labor party has proposed a series of changes to tighten Australia’s skilled immigration policy on 457 visas via a private bill, but its arrival unfortunately comes at a time when the country is desperately seeking highly skilled talent to fill positions across multiple industries, especially in technology.
Proponents of the private bill argue that it is prioritising foreign workers over the country’s citizens for jobs.
They also believe that the prospect of foreign employment becomes more attractive to businesses since it is cheaper than hiring local talent, which is therefore making it difficult for Aussies to compete.
Barry Winata who wrote the original article left Australia to work as a software engineer in Silicon Valley, but thinks there is much to be done to make Australia a genuine tech hub.
While I agree with the sentiment in promoting the use of local talent, as well as establishing safeguards against the exploitation of cheap foreign labour, a government crack down on foreign visas will only hurt the economy rather than fix it.
The truth of the matter is that right now, Australia cannot produce the talent it demands alone — it needs help from other countries to fill the gap.
Let’s face it — Australia’s tech scene has never really taken off. In years past, it’s been faced with many challenges; lack of funding, a brain drain of Aussies moving offshore, dwindling participation in STEM based learning, and very little incentives in encouraging startups to set up shop here.
However, we’re now slowly starting to see a shift that looks much more promising.
Better funding initiatives from government and businesses and the growth of incubators coming from academia and industry are good examples of this.
So how do we continue the momentum of growth and ensure we keep investing and nurturing this ecosystem of innovation, creativity and big ideas? Opening your doors, rather than closing them seems to be more appropriate.
As much as we would like to think we know it all, there’s a wealth of benefit in bringing in outside talent.
Attracting highly experienced workers from abroad can help educate the local workforce on new skills and knowledge, causing a ripple effect across the industry.
As an engineer working in Silicon Valley, I’ve seen first hand the huge reward a diverse and multicultural workforce can bring to the area and the value it can generate for the economy.
There’s a reason California is the biggest economy in the Union. Stacked against nations, it is the world’s sixth largest, surpassing France.
Its diversity in both its people and industries is the reason it is such a melting pot for investment and innovation.
If we really want to utilise and grow our local talent, then perhaps we need to rethink our education and training system from the ground up.
Schools should begin introducing Computer Science into the curriculum. Just as Chemistry, Biology and Physics are options available to students.
Learning to code holds as much value as learning to read or write.
With the job landscape set to shift towards a more digital realm in the next decade and beyond, it’s crucial that we begin making the right moves in our school system towards STEM based learning.
“One in two Australians will need skills such as programming, software development and skills to build digital technology” by 2030.
Slowly but surely, it looks like we’re making good progress, but clamping down on visas isn’t going to speed things up.
Industries will be crippled, foreigners will be put off working here, an exodus of talent offshore will ensue and those wanting to build something for themselves will have no choice but to do it elsewhere.