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How Australian firms are plugging the tech talent gap

Australian companies such as Atlassian and Ansarada are now turning to international options to access scarce talent

The battle to find IT skills continues for Australian CIOs. Some are looking to the nation’s new global talent visa scheme for relief, while others are exploring a raft of other international options to access scarce talent.

According to a newly released survey by recruitment firm Robert Half, 86% of CIOs said it is now more challenging to hire qualified IT professionals compared with five years ago. More than half, however, believe that the new global visa scheme will help address the skills shortage.

The survey revealed that the top five in-demand skills were IT security, IT management, business analysis, networking and database management. Around one in eight used contract workers to plug the gaps.

However, businesses still want to employ personnel and are using a range of incentives to attract international talent to relocate to Australia. These include financial relocation packages (64%), family benefits (61%), lifestyle benefits (58%), increased salary (51%) and housing subsidies (50%). 

Bringing people into Australia is just one option, according to Pieter van Diermen, president of Hong Kong and Vietnam-based PYCO group, which has in the past supplied IT talent to Atlassian. He said it was still unclear how the new visa scheme would work and how easy it would be to access.

PYCO operates a build, operate, transfer (BOT) model. It works with organisations that need IT skills to source them in Asia, offering an alternative solution for companies that do not wish to grapple with the challenge of wrangling visas.

Unlike the classic outsourcing arrangements, PYCO’s clients are able to interview job candidates who would then work for them. In Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh City, PYCO builds the team and operates an office on behalf of clients who can retain control over costs and processes. After three years, a client can buy the overseas office if it wishes.

Van Diermen said clients sometimes hire the personnel directly and bring them into Australia, visas permitting – 50 PYCO coders joined Atlassian at the end of a PYCO contract – while other times they would continue the arm’s length relationship on a fee for service basis.

The company’s largest Australian customer at present is Ansarada, a business that creates and operates data and “war rooms” for companies engaged in mergers and acquisitions or other highly secure transactions. According to van Diermen, Ansarada has 45 PYCO developers working for it in the office PYCO runs for it in Ho Chi Minh.

While van Diermen said that there was nothing wrong with the notion of conventional bodyshopping to find scarce skills, “we try to set up work against that, so it becomes an extension of your team overseas”.

“We are the partner that can take the pain away from going into a new country. From day one they can start coding – we work on setting up the office.”

Read more about talent issues in Australia

  • Australia’s immigration department has rejigged the country’s skilled visa programme in the wake of heavy criticism that followed major changes to the scheme.
  • The Global Talent Scheme follows the government’s move to scrap the 457 visa, but industry watchers say smaller companies will struggle to meet its salary threshold.
  • IT professionals in Australia and New Zealand are earning more, but more needs to be done to address the gender gap.
  • More than seven out of 10 Australian employees are apprehensive about digital transformation, and 39% of them fear their job is at risk due to the digital economy, a new study has revealed.

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