Businesses turn to Visa solution
AS TRADE-BASED companies struggle to maintain a skilled labour force many Mackay businesses are taking advantage of the 457 Visa program.
The number of 457 Visa workers in Queensland jumped from 2890 in 2010 to 4570 in 2011.
Although the foreign workers are only being brought in as a temporary fix to the skills shortage, many are then taking up permanent residency in Australia.
Seven years ago, Esco Corporation was one of the first businesses in Mackay to start looking abroad for skilled tradespeople.
Esco human resource manager Heath Bonney said at the moment the mine servicing company had approximately 20 employers on 457 visas.
"We are heavily invested in training and try to hire locally as much as we can," Mr Bonney said.
Tradesmen were desperately needed for projects at the moment but it took approximately four years to train a tradesman, he said.
"Most of the 457 Visa workers we have are boilermakers and welders," Mr Bonney said.
"The people we recruit are from the Philippines, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
"It takes about three to four months for us to bring them over here."
Mr Bonney said an Esco staff member travelled overseas to recruit workers and the applicants were selected based on their trade skills, English skills and through an interview process.
Mackay Area Industry Network training and development manager Darren Krajewski said recruitment was a prominent issue amongst Mackay businesses.
"MAIN is working with Randstad, an international recruiting agency, to help Mackay business recruit skilled labourers who are on 457 Visas," Mr Krajewski said.
Although the program only started at the end of last year, businesses already had been taking advantage of it, he said.
Mackay Engineering College co-ordinator Bob Baker said skilled foreign labourers on 457 visas were not the answer to the skills shortage.
"It is part of the answer. The best solution is to train our young people and to look ahead and start training now for what we need in the future," Mr Baker said.
"The training facilities we have in Mackay need to be world class."
- There are now 4570 457 Visa workers in Queensland
- The average base salary for a 457 Visa worker is $89,900
- Visa holders come primarily from the UK, India, Ireland, the USA and the Philippines