The federal government has launched a major review into the skilled migration occupations list, with hopes that new tech job categories will be included in the mainstream program.
The skilled occupation list is used for a number of the government’s immigration schemes, including the Temporary Skills Shortage visa.
Employment and skills minister Michaelia Cash launched the review on Wednesday in an effort to ensure the list is “responsive to genuine skills needs”.
“As a government, our role is to ensure that Australian employers can access workers with the skills needed to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow when they can’t be met by the domestic workforce,” Senator Cash said in a statement.
“As part of the review, my department will consult with industry, employers, unions and individuals in developing advice for the Morrison government on the occupations required to meet the labour market needs of the Australian economy.”
Tech jobs already dominate Australia’s skilled migration, taking up the top three most commonly used occupations: developer, software engineer and ICT business analyst. The ICT sector accounted for about 7600 of the 82,000 total skilled visas issued by government in 2018-19.
The current occupation list includes about 500 jobs. To be included, a job must be listed on the ANZSCO standard worker classification, effectively ruling out a number of popular tech jobs until the ANZSCO list is also updated.
The skills shortages and talent gaps facing Australian startups and tech firms is a central issue in the sector currently, and more needs to be done to improve access to overseas talent until it is on offer locally, Techvisa registered migration agent Sam Bricknell said.
“The tech sector seems to be in the sights of the government with the recent extension of the GTES and a large portion of the skilled visas being in the IT sector last financial year,” Mr Bricknell told InnovationAus.com.
“In time, hopefully jobs which are being accessed under the GTES can be added to the skilled list but as they’re not in ANZSCO, it’s unlikely that this will happen in March unless ANZSCO is also reviewed.”
The review will inform the government’s updating of the occupations list in March next year, with labour market analysis and public consultations to also be undertaken.
Immigration minister David Coleman said the new review aimed to ensure that businesses can access workers to fill “critical skills shortages”.
“The Morrison government is continuing to look closely at ways of filling these skills gaps in regional areas and giving businesses more certainty and confidence that they can get the workers they need, when they need them,” Mr Coleman said.
In an effort to bypass this, the federal government made the Global Talent Employer Sponsored visa scheme permanent earlier this year. The scheme, designed for tech companies to attract overseas workers for niche, high-skilled jobs, is not restricted to the occupations list.
A 12-month pilot of the GTES scheme saw 23 companies enter into an agreement with the government to access fast-tracked visas for jobs not included in the skilled migration occupations list.
Mr Bricknell said it’s also important that the government considers offering a pathway to permanent residency for all Temporary Skills Shortage visas.
“One of the problems is that we are trying to attract highly skilled people but only being able to offer a short term visa with no permanent residency avenue. This will of course mean that a move to Australia is less attractive and we are more likely to lose that talent to other markets,” he said.
“A positive outcome would be if they combine the lists and give the option of permanent residency to all skilled workers under the TSS. By combining the short term and medium-long term list, it will make it easier to attract people for roles such as UX, UI, graphic design and marketing specialists, as they will then have an option for permanent residency.”
The federal government also recently launched the Global Talent Independent Program, which will see Home Affairs officials being placed in overseas locations to actively attract skilled workers to Australia.
Under the program, 5000 places have been set aside within the existing permanent migration program, which is capped at 160,000 places.