Australia’s Maligned 457 Visa – Did It Save The Australian Mining Industry

In March of this year (2018) changes to Australia's Temporary Work Visa (subclass 457) were finalised. It's now called the Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (TSS subclass 482) and its primary purpose is to continue allowing companies operating in Australia to address genuine skilled worker shortages in Australia by hiring foreign nationals with the required skills. There are 2 streams in the current TSS visa. The Short-Term visa is issued for up to 2 years with one renewal allowed. The Medium-Term visa is issued for up to 4 years and provides for one renewal plus the option to apply for permanent residency after 3 years. It's ideal for expat mining professionals from other countries who are interested in working in Australia for a few years with a view to possibly permanently relocating there.

The major criteria for obtaining a 482 Visa is that the foreign national MUST possess the training and skills required to fill a position for which there is a shortage of qualified Australian nationals. Although the Australian mining industry is not the biggest current user of the 457 / 482 Visa, it does nevertheless find it necessary to use the system. In 2016 the industry was responsible for sponsoring 470 primary 457 Visas. In 2017 this figure had more than halved to just 200 primary 457 Visas. To the 31st of December 2017 there were 1,000 primary 457 Visa holders in total employed in the mining industry throughout Australia.

Given that well over half the primary 457 Visa holders (across all professions) are filling management and professional positions, it's clear there are still shortfalls in the number of qualified professionals and managers being produced in Australia. Notably in the medical profession but this shortfall applies to the mining industry as well.

Why Does The Australian Mining Industry Still Need Expat Mining Professionals?

With its volatile booms and busts, habit of retrenching jobs during bust times, and remote work locations, the industry has created an image for itself over the decades that is now somewhat of a millstone around its neck. Simply put, there are not enough new entrants coming into the technical and management side of the industry to replace the upper management that is approaching retirement age, or those that have sought more secure employment off shore. This is creating skill shortages in those areas. Companies therefore are of necessity looking outside Australia to find people with the required training and experience to fill some of these management roles, at least for the short term. Then there is the undeniable fact that some Australian mining professionals have taken up roles as expats with overseas mining operations as the downsizing in Australian mining ventures kicked in at the end of the 2000's boom!

The Role Of The 457 Visa During The Last Mining Boom

During the boom of the 2000's, the 457 Visa was used to fill not only mining jobs but also jobs in the associated construction industries that were building the required mining infrastructure. Although there was a perception that foreign workers were taking jobs from Australians, subsequent studies by ECU's Centre for Innovative Practice have revealed that this was not the case at all. Mining and construction companies were employing foreign nationals, predominantly from the UK and Ireland, during the boom purely because they simply couldn't find enough appropriately qualified Australians to do the work! This was particularly the case with the skilled personnel needed to design, implement and manage mining and mining construction projects.

The studies have further found that if mining companies, and other associated industries, had not been able to quickly fill vital positions with available qualified foreign talent they would not have been able to provide the level of services required to sustain the industry during the boom. Indeed, it was only because the industry was able to supplement available Australian talent with overseas talent that the boom was the huge and sustained success it was.

Many 457 visa holders subsequently applied for, and were granted, permanent resident status, thereby growing the permanent pool of talented, trained people available in Australia. Within mining and associated construction trades trained expat professionals were also able to provide development, engineering and organisational training in areas where this type of training and development was generally lacking locally. That's a huge plus with ongoing benefits for the industry moving forward.

Ultimately therefore you would have to say that for Australian mining, the benefits of the 457 Visa during the last mining boom far outweighed the perceived disadvantages. And the take home message in this for the international mining industry in general is that the benefits to be had from hiring trained personnel from other countries is not such a bad thing. Particularly personnel with the training, ability, experience and expertise to fit into management and executive positions.

Contact us now on +44 207 859 4442 about hiring expat mining professionals for your company or operation.

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Tuesday, 20 April 2021
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