CENTRAL Coast NSW Business Chamber manager Dan Farmer said the federal government’s replacement of 457 immigration work visas was timely, but highlighted the need to address skilled labour shortages in the region.
Under the changes announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, two new Temporary Skills Shortage visas will be introduced.
Applicants will have to meet tougher English language requirements, stricter labour market testing, and show they have at least two years of work experience.
Under the new system, the number of eligible occupations for temporary visa status will be cut by 216.
Mr Turnbull said it was about “Australian jobs for Australians first” and stopping visas from becoming “passports for foreigners to take up jobs that could and should be taken up by Australians”.
Key industry groups have voiced concerns about sourcing top talent, and getting workers for jobs that Australians have been reluctant to take on.
The occupations on the deleted list for which 457 visas were most commonly used include human resources advisor, manufacturing production manager, web developer, and cooks, chefs, and restaurant and cafe managers.
Mr Farmer said 457 visas had an important role to play in meeting skills gaps in regional areas such as the Central Coast where employers were increasingly frustrated by a lack of skilled labour.
“Addressing skills shortages and providing more employment opportunities for Australians is a pressing issue requiring greater attention from all levels of government, particularly on the Central Coast with long-term youth unemployment challenges,” Mr Farmer said.
Almost 24 per cent of respondents to the NSW Business Chamber’s latest quarterly business conditions survey said that they did not have access to suitably skilled staff, he said.
“Businesses invest a great deal of time and effort in locating, hiring and training suitable staff but when this fails a 457 visa can assist. It is critical that the new visa arrangements ensure Australians are employed first but, where necessary, businesses have access to skilled labour critical to their operations and growth.
“Measures such as 457 visas are by their very nature short-term measures,” he said.
“More effort is required to address skill shortages and promote employment participation particularly for young Australians in regional areas like the Central Coast.”