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Skilled migration: A new paradigm for Government

Skilled migration: A new paradigm for Government

How government initiatives are helping support Australian businesses grow.

by Carter Bovard and John O'Brien

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Governments have traditionally deferred to the business sector when it comes to driving the agenda on skills. Well, not anymore.

As part of its 2020-21 Budget, the Australian Government announced $2 billion for a skills package to help workers retrain or upskill in sectors with job opportunities, as the economy recovers from COVID-19. 

While these measures are good news for the domestic skills base, what about businesses that rely on international labour markets? For many firms, especially in the technology sector, recruiting from the global talent pool is an essential part of their strategy.  

But travel restrictions have made it harder than ever to get access to overseas skills. Net migration for 2020-21 is expected to be 72,000 less than the originally planned 160,000. At a time when some Australian businesses need overseas skills to drive growth and investment, this shortfall poses serious concerns.

Fortunately, the Australian Government has ramped up its skilled migration and visa programs. While some have a temporary COVID-19 focus, others will be important for businesses looking to build skills strategically over the longer-term.

Here is a breakdown of the main programs available, who they are targeted at, and how they can help. 

Urgent skills

As part of its immediate response to COVID-19, the Australian Government created the Priority Migration Skilled Occupations List (PMSOL). This program allows for skilled workers to return to Australia to fill urgent skills needs in critical sectors, helping to create Australian jobs and rebuild Australia’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

The 18 occupations on the list include CEOs as well as skilled roles in engineering, health and software development. Any employer-sponsored nominations and visa applications with an occupation on the PMSOL will be given priority processing.

While the PMSOL helps fill urgent skills gaps related to COVID-19, it won’t help businesses that require skills that are not on the list.

A new taskforce for exceptional skills

In September 2020, the Australian Government announced a new Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce. This initiative brings together experts from government and the private sector “to turbo-charge the creation of jobs by boosting efforts to attract high-value global business and exceptional talent”. 

In practice, the taskforce offers a kind of ‘concierge service’ to cut through the proverbial red tape and help these businesses and workers establish in Australia. There will be specialised support for navigating issues like trade, taxation and immigration. 

The new taskforce builds upon the existing global talent programs that were introduced over the last two years to attract the world’s best and brightest. These talent programs all offer a streamlined pathway to permanent residence, tailored advice on how and where to relocate, industry-specific contacts and support through a single point of contact.

Tech start-ups or larger firms from Europe, North America, or Asia looking to grow a presence in Australia will find these programs particularly useful. But some local companies could benefit too through fast-track recruitment of highly specialised skills. Local industries also see a positive flow-on effect - through skills transfer -  when high-value talent comes to Australia.

Visas for innovation

The Global Talent Visa program (also known as the Global Talent Independent Program) is designed to attract individuals who are internationally recognised as prominent in their field to live and work permanently in Australia.

The program is available to employers who cannot fill niche positions through the existing skilled visa programs, such as the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) program. Eligible businesses enjoy priority processing of applications and can negotiate variations on the standard TSS visa requirements.

There is a stream for both established businesses and start-ups operating in a tech-based or science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field. 

Innovation and STEM skills area key focus area for the Australian Government. This year it has increased the number of available GTES visas from 5,000 to over 15,000. Businesses looking for high-tech skills but want an alternative to a 482 visa may find the GTES program better suits their needs.

A pathway for global talent

Geopolitical factors can play a significant role in migration patterns. Given increasing volatility and uncertainty across the Asia Pacific region and the impact of COVID-19 in the United States and Europe, many outstanding individuals are considering opportunities in countries that can offer a greater level of safety, stability and job security. 

The Global Talent Visa program (also known as the Global Talent Independent Program) is designed to attract individuals who are internationally recognised as prominent in their field to live and work permanently in Australia.

The program has recently been expanded to ten future-focused sectors:

  • Resources (e.g. critical minerals)
  • Agri-food and AgTech
  • Energy
  • Health industries
  • Defence, advanced manufacturing and space
  • Circular economy
  • DigiTech
  • Infrastructure and tourism
  • Financial services and FinTech
  • Education

With volatility across the globe likely to continue into the next year, Australian businesses may have access to a growing pool of highly skilled individuals who have taken advantage of the Global Visa Talent program.

Think strategically and seek support

It has never been more critical for businesses to think strategically when it comes to skills-planning for the future. Competition for skills - particularly digital and high-tech skills - is only going to increase. Businesses that don’t have a strategy for securing the skills they need may find themselves falling behind.

The Australian Government is throwing its support behind skills like never before. Now is the time to take advantage of the programs on offer.

Contact us

Carter Bovard

Carter Bovard

Asia-Pacific Immigration Practice Leader | MARN: 0956696, PwC Australia

Tel: +61 3 8603 1879

John O’Brien

Senior Manager, PwC Australia

Tel: +61 422 258 791

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