Government meets industry to address changes to 457 Visa scheme

Industry oppose new Labour Agreement

The federal government will participate in a roundtable discussion with industry tomorrow to address recent changes to the 457 Visa scheme.

The roundtable has been organised in a bid to overcome fierce opposition to the changes including a new Labour Agreement template the government has introduced for On-hire companies.

The Agreement sets out the responsibilities and obligations of agencies for their overseas-sourced workforce, and local workers enforcing set levels of investment in training and development and other criteria that must be met.

It is the on-hire and contracting industries that have been particularly vocal about changes to the 457 scheme playing a key role in organising the roundtable which will include representatives from the Department of Immigration and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

The 457 scheme has expanded rapidly in recent years with the Department of Immigration issuing a record number of visas to try and tackle Australia's worsening skills crisis.

The ICT industry is particularly reliant on the temporary 457 visa scheme as a reliable source of skilled migrants to fill the resources gap.

In the last decade the Australian economy has produced an additional two million jobs with more than 383,300 workers currently employed in the ICT industry, according to government figures.

One of the changes introduced under the scheme mandates that industry commit two per cent of a 457 Visa holder's wages to training and development.

This investment is part of a list of stated goals set out by the government under the 457 program. Whenever overseas skills are utilised these funds are used to re-skill the local workforce.

The idea is to reinvest in the Australian labour market as part of an overall strategy to address the skills crisis.

However, industry groups oppose the investment claiming it is 'unworkable' and 'financially unviable'.

Despite the changes, there has been a surge in the number of on-hire companies applying for Labour Agreements under the new 457 scheme.

But compliance continues to be an issue and only a handful of companies have been awarded Agreements.

This is one of the issues to be covered during tomorrow's discussions.

One company that has met obligations under the Agreement is ICT recruiter, 3W Consulting Contracting Recruitment Pty Ltd, the first firm to be approved since the changes were introduced.

The company has been able to source skilled ICT professionals across the globe, particularly from the Philippines.

3W CEO, Andrew McCarroll, said the company has taken a positive approach to the new scheme and built the training and development obligations into its business strategy.

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