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Govt makes GTES visa scheme permanent

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Monday, 12 August, 2019

Govt makes GTES visa scheme permanent

The federal government has revealed plans to make the Global Talent Employer Sponsored (GTES) program — formerly known as the Global Talent Scheme — permanent, following a successful pilot last financial year.

The scheme forms part of efforts to address the ongoing skills shortage in the technology and other sectors.

The GTES program allows employers to sponsor overseas workers for highly skilled positions that cannot be filled by Australian workers, or through other standard visa programs.

Any position filled through a GTES agreement must provide opportunities for Australians by, for example, creating new jobs or transferring skills and knowledge to Australian workers.

During the pilot program, 23 GTES agreements were entered into by companies seeking to fill specialised positions. These agreements have a five-year term. They enable businesses to sponsor up to 20 highly skilled visa applicants per year for established businesses and five for start-ups.

The Department of Home Affairs has set a goal of finalising all GTES agreements within two weeks of a complete application being filed.

Participants in the pilot program included online geographic design business Canva and quantum computing start-up Q-CTRL.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said making the program permanent will provide much-needed certainty for the Australian technology sector.

“This program will provide our tech companies with the skilled workers they need to be able to do business here in Australia and grow, which will in turn contribute to our economy and create more jobs for Australians,” she said.

“We obviously want Australians employed wherever possible but this program will help tech companies to fill the gaps, while we continue to develop the skilled workforce we need.”

StartupAUS has welcomed the announcement that the scheme will be made permanent. The industry body’s CEO Alex McCauley said the program provides a valuable path to high-quality visas for start-ups nationwide.

“This is solid policy and the continuation of the scheme is a sign that the government is listening to start-ups and the recommendations we have been putting forward,” he said.

“Ready access to high-quality visas is critical to unlocking growth potential of start-ups. Many of these in-demand roles are at the cutting edge of technology, and are in low supply globally.”

VET reform needed

Meanwhile, the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), a peak employer organisation for Australian industry, has urged the government to address the skills shortage on another front.

The peak body has called on the Prime Minister and State and Territory leaders to use the recent Council of Australian Government meeting in Cairns to tackle the reform of Australia’s training system.

“With the global economy now in choppy waters and Australia falling down the world’s performance tables, now, more than ever, governments need to work with industry to secure a long-term prosperous future for us all. The first step has to be a ground-up rebuild of our Vocational Education and Training (VET) System. This must be a national priority,” Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox said.

He said it is “urgent and necessary” for federal and state governments to ensure Australia has a training system that meets both current and future needs.

Falling apprenticeship and traineeship participation rates and the erosion of confidence in the VET are cause for concern, Willox said.

“A significant consideration is to address the excessively complex and duplicative Commonwealth and State/Territory roles and responsibilities in the training system,” he said.

“The National Skills Commission is an important first step for all parties to engage with. Commitment to a roadmap for reform should be a key outcome of the current COAG process. A genuinely national training system that meets the needs of economy may finally be possible.”

But McAfee VP for ANZ Gary Denman said while government intervention is always welcome, addressing the skills shortage is also the responsibility of industry. He noted that the cybersecurity industry in particular is facing a talent shortfall of around 18,000 professionals by 2026.

“Relying on vocational training programs alone is not enough when the pace of change of the threat landscape continues to surpass existing industry skills, while at the same time the number of graduates entering the industry per year sits at an average of just 500 people,” he said.

“To help fix the cybersecurity talent shortage, the industry needs to work harder and more creatively to retain and upskill its existing talent base. As the Ai Group proposed, a skills fund model to support retraining will go a long way to help organisations combat constantly evolving threats. But we need a multilayered approach to address the many factors contributing to this issue.”

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