Australia has a rich resource in its people. Further cultivating a bright, engaged workforce will deepen opportunities for Australia to be a leading digital economy.
The Tech Council advocates for a joined-up approach to developing Australia’s tech talent pool, combining education and training with skilled migration.
We have four policy goals for jobs, talent and skills in Austalia
- Achieve 1 million tech sector jobs by 2025
- Grow the pipeline of skilled workers and pathways into tech sector jobs
- Refine Employee Share Scheme rules keep and reward Australian talent
- Target skilled migration programs by improving availability of the GTES visa and re-evaluating processes for allocation of TSS Visas
Supporting STEM skill development and tech careers
There is a great array of programs underway to support STEM skills development and encourage careers in tech related fields, and as entrepreneurs. We commend Australia’s work in these areas and look forward to continuing to play our part.
TCA members are working with governments, education institutions and other industries to better identify tech job opportunities, pathways into them, and areas of skills shortages.
The ideal end state is one in which there is no local skills gap and tech related roles can be filled from the local talent pool. Until we get there, there is a need to fill genuine skills gaps with international talent, for which there is strong global competition.
Visas and skilled migration
We welcome the efforts of Government to recognise the need to fill skills gaps in the immediate term through visa arrangements. This importation of talent in key positions also helps boost Australian employment, including by transferring valuable skills to local talent.
The Global Talent (Employer Sponsored) program (GTES) is valuable in supporting Australia as a leading digital economy. It is fast and flexible – you don’t need to have the occupation on an ANZCO list (see below) and there are concessions around age restrictions and permanent residency.
Also valuable is the Global Talent – Independent Program (GTI), which sees Home Affairs fund Global Talent Officers in key cities around the world, including Shanghai, Santiago, Singapore and Berlin. These officers, equipped with the talent needs expressed by industry representatives across the country, are then empowered to seek out high level talent and bring them into the country. They essentially both advertise Australia as a destination and help administer the visa process for promising candidates.
Nevertheless there are shortcomings in visa arrangements that, if addressed, would support further growth and talent development of Australians. The Temporary Skills Shortage visas remain important for technology companies of all sizes. However these visas are based on occupation lists prepared by a number of government agencies. These lists identify particular occupations by assigning an ‘ANZCO code’ – an occupation-based designation used by Australian and New Zealand authorities. This is then used as the basis for identifying occupations for which there is a skills shortage in Australia. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many important tech roles do not have ANZCO codes. A high proportion of these roles didn’t exist when the ANZCO codes were last updated, and it is difficult for a relatively static system to keep pace with fast-moving industries.
Employee share schemes
Encouraging employee ownership and diversifying options for rewarding staff are critical to supporting a thriving local technology sector. Typically, employees of technology businesses are compensated through a combination of salary and an employee share plan. This is the case across the globe. Hence in attracting talent, it is essential for Australian tech businesses to be able to offer a competitive employee share scheme.
Whilst Australia’s current employee share scheme arrangements create strong foundations, there do remain critical issues with the suitability of the arrangements and we would welcome resolution of these. In particular:
- Presently, employees are taxed on their stock when they leave that employment. However companies where the stock is not liquid – including all private companies – will not be able to sell shares to fund the related tax liability. This acts as a barrier to talent moving around and sees people effectively ‘locked into’ roles beyond when they would otherwise share their skills elsewhere in the industry. We welcome the Government’s commitment to fix this problem, removing ‘cessation of employment’ as one of the deferred taxing points.
- Qualification criteria for the startup concession under the ESS regime could be broadened in terms of firm age, firm size, and funds raised. Given the maturation of Australia’s tech sector in recent years it is perhaps unsurprising that a large number of member companies identify rapidly ‘outgrowing’ the startup concessions as problematic. Australia has a number of young, high-growth firms raising significant amounts of capital, that are exactly the sort of companies that need a high quality ESS scheme to attract the best talent, but under the current criteria they may automatically find themselves ineligible for the concessions from the outset. The investment threshold could readily be expanded to reflect the change in landscape since 2015 when the last changes to the scheme were made.
TechCouncil advocates for Australia to be a leading digital economy.