Review of 457 visa scheme raises questions about local versus imported marketing skills

Curbing the 457 visa eligible jobs list raises questions about marketing industry’s use of skilled migrants to fill marketing roles and how we're fostering local talent


Moves to curb the types of jobs eligible for 457 work visas by the Australian Government should sound a warning bell to the marketing industry to do more to foster local talent, leading industry association chiefs say.

In a statement released today, Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, confirmed he had tasked the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration (MACSM) to review the list of occupations currently eligible under the 457 Visa scheme as part of efforts to crackdown on abuse of the system. The news comes a couple of weeks after the Minister revealed his intention of culling the list during a Sky News interview.

At present, there are more than 650 occupations listed, including several marketing related titles such as marketing specialist, sales and marketing manager, advertising specialist, advertising manager, PR manager, and PR professional.

Industry figures show Australian organisations have been actively using the 457 scheme to source marketing skills. According to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection figures, marketing specialist (3460) was the third-most nominated occupation for primary visa holders after cook (6770) and chef (4870) as at 30 June 2015.

The definition for marketing specialist, as per the ANZSCO, is someone who: “Identifies market opportunities and advises on the development, coordination and implementation of plans for pricing and promoting an organisation’s goods and services”. Specialisations include brand, category and product manager, as well as sales promotion officer. Marketing-related 457 Visa applications are reviewed by the Australian Institute of Management.

In his release, Minister Dutton pointed out the 457 program has grown from 68,000 primaryvisa holders in 2010 to more than 110,000 today. While supportive of utilising the visa program to access specific skillsets, such as those in hospitality or the medical profession, as well as to fulfil skills gaps in regional areas, the list must be condensed, he said. The latest decision to cut back jobs listed under the visa scheme is one of several moves the Coalition Government has made to crack down on what it sees as foreign workers taking local jobs.

MACSM is due to provide its findings and advice to the Minister in the first half of 2017.

ADMA CEO, Jodie Sangster, told CMO that in comparison to other industries, marketing has trended highly in terms of recruiting people from overseas to fill positions.

“There is often this perception that people from overseas are more skilled than locals, or more advanced than in relation to Australia,” she said.

With the recent introduction of ADMA’s skills framework and capabilities around different types of marketing, Sangster said the association has started looking into the skilled migrants situation and its input into visas. She claimed part of the problem is the lack of criteria around what a marketing professional is.

“The reason the government wants to tighten up the program - and rightly so - is if you are coming in as a skilled migrant, you should exhibit skills in that professional field,” Sangster said.

“With some professions, such as law, or medicine, you have to have a qualification or registration to be considered a professional in that field, and you have clear criteria. With marketing, there’s not been one, it’s experience-based and about showing you have done the job before. In other words, how long is a piece of string.

“As an industry, we need to be clearer on the skills needed from a marketing professional standpoint and around on who comes in on that visa.”

Sangster called on the industry to do more to upskill people locally to ensure relative skills are available in the Australian market.

“What we have to do is invest in our people. It’s not easy for overseas people to fill in these roles. But we have a gap at the moment in terms of people needed to fill marketing roles,” she said. “Yes, we need people from overseas, but we also need the right people to take the marketing jobs, who demonstrate and have the skills professional marketers should have, and who aren’t just coming in because they held a similar marketing role previously.”

With its skills framework and assessment tool in place, ADMA is looking to position itself to help with that gap.

“Assessing that someone meets the criteria has not been robust enough,” Sangster added. “We should take this as a good opportunity to make sure that assessment is being done well and that we’re ensuring we bring the right skills into the country.”

Australian Marketing Institute (AMI) CEO, Lee Tonitto, said the professional institute values the contribution made by the many skilled persons who work in Australia on 457 visas, but agreed that where there is an Australian worker ready, willing and able to perform a role, the government has the right to give the Australian job priority.

She also said an Expert Migration Skills Assessment (MSA) by professional bodies for employers looking to sponsor migrant workers is crucial as a service to ensure qualified professionals perform the role.

Data suggests 457 workers accounted for less than one per cent of Australia's workforce as at January 2016, a figure that plays down its impact on local jobs. Tonitto said it’s more accurate to assess the significance of the program based on the number of visa grants, not inventory of visa holders. The 457 visa is the most commonly used program to sponsor overseas workers on a temporary basis.

Tonitto also advised the industry to do more to build up skillsets around the marketing function, especially as the number and types of roles rapidly increases. According to AMI figures, the Australian marketing profession comprises of more than 55,000 marketers and is one of the top five growth professions in this country.

The Federal Government Australian Jobs Report for 2016 also predicts a 13.3 per cent upsurge in marketing jobs over the next five years and 15.5 per cent growth over the next five years. This means that by 2020, the marketing profession will have nearly double to 100,000 marketers, Tonitto said.

In addition, customer experience experts are one of the top five growth professions over the next 20 years, a new report, Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce – megatrends and scenarios for jobs and employment in Australia over the next twenty years, has claimed.

“Curbing of 457 visas may affect short-term supply of marketers,” Tonitto said. “Resource planning in the longer term also needs to acknowledge that in the next decade, Australia’s workforce will be older and more culturally diversified.”

For instance, Tonitto noted that while more than 80 per cent of migrants arriving each year are of working age, that figure drops to 54 per cent across residents.

There are signs of improvement, however, and Tonitto said tertiary and VET sector marketing enrolments are growing strongly.

“This means that in the coming years, a good supply of local talent with strong employability skills will be available,” she added.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:+google.com/+CmoAu

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