The long and short-term impact of the changes to the 457 visa scheme are yet to be seen. Despite the talent shortage and skills gap being a constant issue in the industry, particularly for media agencies struggling to fill complex data and technology roles, neither the MFA nor the Communications Council plans to lobby Canberra yet.
Yesterday, the social and research industry body, revealed that it plans to challenge Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's changes to the 457 visa scheme, particularly relating to two roles that have been removed from the eligibility list.
The Research Industry Council of Australia (RICA), which represents the social and market research industries, yesterday issued a statement urging the government to reconsider the removal of two roles from the eligible skilled occupation list which it says are “critical skill sets relied upon by the Australian market and social research industry”.
The removal of market research analyst and research and development manager from the eligible roles list will “hit our industry hard” says Sarah Campbell, executive director of the market and social research organisations, adding the body “will be heading to Canberra to request they be instated”.
RICA, which represents 4000 full time employees is much smaller than the combined media and creative industries, says: “We simply cannot afford to lose the highly skilled talent we currently recruit from overseas”.
There are several roles that have been removed altogether from the eligibility list that are likely to impact the broader media, adversing and marketing industry, including: director, film, television, radio and stage directors, media producer (excluding Video), multi-media designer, public relations manager, radio journalist, radio presenter, research and development manager market research analyst and web developer.
This biggest issue is the shift of a number of advertising-specific roles to the two-year visa option, which cannot then be converted into permanent residency. It could make it less appealing for agencies to bring talent from overseas for a minimum of two years, and maximum of four years. There's a dis-incentive due to increased cost and lack of contribution to the industry over the long term.
Clemenger BBDO Sydney head of people and talent Clinton Parr says the biggest focus currently is how the changes impact current employees on 457 visa, but one likely outcome is it will make it a less appealing prospect for internationals to move so far away for a relatively short stint.
Neither body monitors the visa status of people within the industry, so it’s not clear exactly how many people are currently working on a 457 visa, or began on one.
Sophie Madden, CEO of the Media Federation of Australia, tells AdNews the number of expatriates working in the media industry has been in general decline in recent years, but currently sits at around 10% of the total workforce. Bear in mind that figure is all expats and not just 457 visas but it gives a ballpark figure.
That decline in the number of expats working in media agencies has coincided with a greater focus on training, development and culture programs within the industry, she says, which demonstrates a shift in mindset from plugging skills and talent gaps with people from overseas who already have that skillset, towards growing local talent from within.
The MFA also says the highest proportion of expats within media roles are currently in marketing, research, digital and sponsorship or content roles. One aspect that Madden says is not clear yet is how the new visa scheme will help address the areas that are currently hardest to find talent – such as specialist data roles.
On the creative side of the industry, Tony Hale, CEO of the Communications Council, also believes developing local talent can offset any adverse implications from changes in visa eligibility.
He believes that the strength of Australia's creative success comes from the way local and international talent is incubated in this market.
“Australia punches above its weight in all the global rankings, because we've been brilliant at growing our own talent, but the other half of the equation is that it isn't hard to attract great [international] talent to Australia," he says.
"The lifestyle here is hard to match. The success in the global rankings is due to the incubator that we've created to build on local and international talent together – growing our own and blending it with the best we can attract.”
As Clemenger's Parr pointed out, that is something that could well be impacted when the 457 visa program is replaced, if less overseas talent wants to come to Australia for a short time, but it's not some thing Hale is overly concerned about at this early stage in the proceedings.
Hale concedes that a lot of member agencies rely on overseas talent coming in on the 457 visa to fill gaps, and the visa changes may mean that the industry misses out on diversity to some degree, but it is a system that was due an overhaul.
While the CommsCouncil isn't planning to lobby Canberra at this stage in the way the RICA is, Hale says if it becomes necessary down the line the industry would “mount a challenge” .
However, he also thinks it could force a welcome focus on better developing home grown talent.
The CommsCouncil is currently working on how to improve the professional development framework the creative industry offers people.
“Australia has been brilliant at creating and growing its own talent. If you look back at AWARD School and the Advertising Federation of Australia grad programme in the 80s to now, every year I look at the talent coming through AWARD school and I think the talent is amazing,” he says.
“But, we are good at identifying talent, but not so good at developing it. We don't have a standard pathway or professional development frameworks so young people have no direction,” he says.
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