Australia’s existing skills assessment process for skilled migration visas has come under further criticism by the local tech sector as part of an ongoing inquiry into the country’s skilled migration program.

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) told the Joint Standing Committee on Migration on Friday the current skills assessment process feels “quite prescribed” and thought that any discussions about making changes to the process was always off-limits.

“It’s felt like a very standoff relationship. It has been — from our perspective or my side of the fence — a bit hard,” ACS CEO Rupert Grayston said.

“So, we’re very excited … and really welcome the spirit of this inquiry because it opens doors that have been shut for many, many years that we thought were not an area for conversation.”

Grayston suggested if any changes were to come as a result of the inquiry, one of the specific considerations should be around aligning skillsets with areas where skills are most needed, such as software development and cybersecurity.

Atlassian agreed, sharing similar observations. 

“I think the challenge with skills list in general is that it’s a lagging indicator. Often our industry is moving so quickly that generally by the time that the sort of list catchs up to where that is, you’re generally behind what the demands are in the sector,” Atlassian director of public policy David Masters said.

Masters pointed out that the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZCO) list, for instance, lacked a consistent skills definition when compared to the ones used by the tech sector.

The ANZCO list was established by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to provide information on the skill level of jobs, qualifications, and experiences needed to work in specific occupations in Australia. The list is used by the federal government as a base as to whether an individual is eligible to qualify for a skilled visa in Australia, including the Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa, which was introduced in April 2017 after the Temporary Work (Skilled) 457 visa was scrapped.

“The ANZCO list doesn’t really match the skills definition the industry uses, so there’s a challenge just from an occupational perspective in defining what we would say someone does versus when ANZCO said this is what they should do,” he said.

To overcome this inconsistency, Grayston admitted the ACS only uses the ANZCO list for certification purposes and has shifted to use non-ANZCO frameworks for assessments. He highlighted cyber security occupations, for instance, are yet to specified on the list, and the only qualifying option is “security specialists”.  

“It’s relied on as an assumption that also means cyber security,” Grayston clarified.

A representative from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment confirmed the department is currently working alongside the ABS to review of the ANZCO list.

Grayston proposed the best way to go about developing any new framework to assist with skills migration would require a joint effort between industry and government.

“We think there’s an opportunity for collective [effort] to engage. We can’t hand you a better system in a document, we need to co-design. We think there’s an enormous opportunity to do that,” he said.

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