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Budget 2022: Tech talent visas & education top SME wishlist

As the country continues on its path toward economic recovery, millions of Australians eagerly await the announcement of the Federal Budget later today. For many small business owners, there is one important question in mind: will the Budget acknowledge and address the country’s tech talent shortage?

“Australia’s pool of tech talent is dire,” said Nigel Fellowes-Freeman, CEO and founder of Kanopi. “It is the single greatest challenge for the sector right now. It’s pushing up the market rate of salaries beyond the limit of what a startup can pay and will end up stalling the growth and potentially shutting down companies across the country.”

The shortage in local tech talent was an issue even before the COVID-19 pandemic and has only been exacerbated by the closing of international borders for the last two years. Last week, the Federal Labor Party reiterated its plan to increase university and TAFE spots for priority sectors like tech and voiced its support for the Technology Council of Australia’s roadmap to create 340,000 new jobs in the sector by 2030.

Mr. Fellowes-Freeman added, “Australia is currently behind on its net migration projections due to COVID-19, and the pinch of talent shortages are being felt across all industries as a result. There will likely be a national response to this in the budget, we can only hope that it includes the startup and technology sector given it’s the next driver of overall economic growth.”

According to recent data from LinkedIn, countries like Vietnam, The Philippines, and India excel at delivering top tech talent.

“The obvious fix to this is to encourage the migration of tech talent from abroad,” said Mr. Fellowes-Freeman. “There are also plenty of talented people that want to work here. But the process of bringing them over is expensive, time-consuming and full of red tape. We’ve been trying to bring someone over from Singapore to work for us, it’s been seven months, and we’re only partway through the process.”

FinTech Australia, the country’s national fintech association, has elaborated on potential policies in the Federal Budget that can address these issues: easing the process of applying for a Global Talent Visa and expanding the number of positions available, offering an incentive program for overseas tech talent, and funding the creation of tech-related training programs to retrain existing Australian talent.

“The shortage of technology talent in Australia has slowed growth and increased costs for many of our members,” stated Andrew Porter, CEO of FinTech Australia. “In the past year, it has come into focus as the greatest challenge facing our sector and the momentum it has witnessed in the past few years.

“With borders reopening and travel resuming after the pandemic, now is the time to introduce further incentives to attract overseas talent to fill the immediate shortfall. However, more can also be done to train and retrain talent on our own shores.”

No doubt SME owners will be keeping an eye on the Budget to see how these challenges are addressed. 

READ MORE: Budget 2022: Technology CEOs Weigh In On Their Expectations

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Rhea Laxmi Nath

Rhea Laxmi Nath

Rhea L Nath is a Sydney-based writer and editor. In 2022, she was named Young Journalist of the Year at the NSW Premier's Multicultural Communications Awards.

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