New Australian Migration Strategy to Deliver Skills for Tech Sector

The tech industry in Australia is facing a skills crisis that is putting at risk the aspiration of having 1.2 million tech jobs in the country by 2030. With significant skills demanded in a range of areas such as cybersecurity, data and artificial intelligence, businesses have been crying out for a solution. Australia’s new Migration

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The tech industry in Australia is facing a skills crisis that is putting at risk the aspiration of having 1.2 million tech jobs in the country by 2030. With significant skills demanded in a range of areas such as cybersecurity, data and artificial intelligence, businesses have been crying out for a solution.

Australia’s new Migration Strategy aims to address some of these problems. With new measures, including the introduction of a new Specialist Skills Pathway for highly skilled workers, there is now hope a “broken” system can be fixed to support local tech sector growth.

Australia to fix ‘broken’ migration system to spur ‘nation building’

Australia released its new Migration Strategy in December 2023. This followed a Review of the Migration System by Martin Parkinson, chancellor of Macquarie University, which labelled the system “so badly broken” that a “10-year rebuild” would be required for it to work for businesses, workers and Australians.

The Government’s new Migration Strategy aims to fix these problems, promising the “biggest reforms to migration in a generation.” With a desire to reorient the system back towards “nation building,” the Migration Strategy’s aims include supporting productivity, innovation and success in a digital economy.

Opening the door to recruiting more skilled global tech workers

For Australia’s tech industry, the biggest win in the new Migration Strategy is a shift in focus towards bringing in skilled workers in areas of skills shortage. This is a shift away from the previous period, where it was geared towards international students and lower skilled workers.

SEE: The future of the remote working market in Australia’s tech sector.

This shift will see tech firms and other tech skills-hungry businesses able to tap a global talent pool of tech workers using newly created skills pathways and visas. More streamlined labour market testing will also still need to be conducted before hiring workers from offshore.

Specialist Skills Pathway and faster processing times a win for tech

A Specialist Skills Pathway will be one option created within a new Skills in Demand visa. Designed to “drive innovation and job creation,” it will enable the recruitment of highly skilled tech and other workers earning over AUD $135,000 (USD $91,692) into Australia.

A key aspect of the overhaul of the visa system is a commitment to establish a best practice service-level agreement for visa processing times, reducing Australia’s notoriously long waits. For Specialist Skills Pathway visas, processing will be fast-tracked within seven days.

New visas to address skills shortages in tech and other industries

The Skills in Demand visa will direct Australia’s temporary skilled migration program firmly towards meeting national and industry skills needs. This will mean bringing in skilled workers from overseas markets in areas where Australia has identified skills shortages.

New aspects of this four-year temporary visa will include giving workers more opportunity to move between employers and industries rather than being tied to a single employer sponsorship. It will also provide clear pathways to permanent residence for those who wish to pursue them.

For example, a software engineer, which is the most common occupation on the current Temporary Skill Shortage visa, could move between employers and shift industries like transport and logistics or financial services while still having a permanent residence pathway.

What has been the response from Australia’s tech sector so far?

The Australian migration strategy has been received well by the tech sector. According to the Technology Council of Australia, Australia’s peak technology industry body, it can be considered a major reform that will make Australia a globally competitive destination for skilled workers.

Helping Australia compete for tech skills

The Specialist Skills Pathway’s seven-day service standard for processing applications and pathway to permanent residency puts Australia on par with economies like Canada and the U.K. Both countries process applications in 5–10 days and have clear permanent residency paths.

This will make it easier for Australia to attract top-tier tech talent from the global talent pool. Previously, Australia has been seen as being at a disadvantage, with long visa processing times and no way to achieve permanent residency except through single employer sponsorship.

Supporting the growth of local companies

The injection of more skilled tech workers from global markets is expected to have positive effects on the ability of local tech firms and companies hiring tech workers to innovate and grow. This could contribute more to global success and create more jobs and growth in Australia.

Helping tech workers learn and develop

Highly skilled tech workers brought in on Skills in Demand visas will help train local workers developing careers in the tech sector. Current government targets mean about 160,000 young Australians will need to be trained into technology jobs by 2030.

The Technology Council said experienced workers will help local tech workers learn and develop. The TCA said studies show exposing junior workers to experienced talent generates a 2.5% boost in their annual productivity. This shows how on-the-job learning from skilled mentors could improve individual skills and create more efficiency and skills capacity in the tech market.

Filling skills gaps in high shortage areas

Australia is experiencing acute skills shortages in areas such as cybersecurity, data analytics, AI and many other tech disciplines. The migration changes will mean employers could have a new way to fill skill gaps for professionals in these areas when paid over AUD $135,000 (USD $91,692).

Turning tech start-ups into visa sponsors

Startups that have received backing from a venture capital fund will be able to become part of the accredited sponsor program. This will mean they are able to sponsor international workers to work with their businesses in the local market, easing current recruitment challenges.

Possible impact in 2024 and beyond for Australia’s tech jobs

Australia’s Federal Government has proposed a three-phased approach to introducing changes. This will involve expediting some existing migration commitments, developing and implementing some new commitments by the end of 2024 and consulting on others throughout 2024.

Skills in Demand visas and faster service levels due by end of 2024

The measures the tech sector would most like to see are likely to be introduced by the end of 2024. For example, the government has said the full worker mobility Skills in Demand visa, as well as the targeted Specialist Skills Pathway, will be introduced by the end of 2024.

Migrants to help Australia with technological and digital transformation

The government said in its migration strategy that emerging technologies are transforming workplaces, indust

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