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09 February 2016
Figures released by Australia's Department of Immigration and Border Protection show that the number of 457 visas being issued to foreign workers has increased by 40 per cent across the state of Tasmania.
Due to an ongoing skills crisis, the number of visas issued in the first quarter of the financial year rose by 43 per cent compared with the same period 12 months ago.
Although the number of 457 visas issued to foreign workers coming to Tasmania remains small in comparison to nationwide figures, there has been a significant increase in the number of visas granted for Australia's hospitality, health care and education sectors.
By 30 September, 2015, 60 visas had been issued – one third of them went to chefs or cooks. Ten chefs emigrated to Tasmania; none had done so 12 months earlier. 10 cooks had also been recruited from abroad. The Tasmanian Hospitality Association has warned that the state is dealing with a shortage of 150 chefs.
The Association is set to host workshops this month [February] in order to explain the 457 visa process to employers who need to bring in staff from abroad. In an interview with the Sunday Tasmanian Steve Old, the General Manager of the Tasmanian Hospitality Association, said: "We're having to reach out as far as we can."
Commenting on the upcoming workshops, Mr Old said: "We're trying to make sure our industry understands all the different options. Immigration department officials will be on hand at the workshops to explain an often complex and expensive process."
Currently, there are approximately 50 hospitality workers with a 457 visa in Tasmania. Overall, there are 400, 457 visa holders across the state according to the Immigration Department's figures.
Mr Old said: "If one of the things we can do is open the eyes of venue operators to getting chefs on these different visas, the numbers could go up. You can't get qualified tradespeople with a click of your fingers — they've got to go through the apprenticeship process."
Immigration Department data also shows that 20 medical vacancies in Tasmania had been filled by professionals with an Australian skilled immigration visa. This is on top of the 40 GPs already in the state on a 457 visa.
Dr Tim Green, Tasmania state president of the Australian Medical Association, said that better workforce planning and an increase in the number of training opportunities in public hospitals are needed to reduce dependence on temporary work visa solutions.
Dr Green said: "We need to train enough doctors for the future and we need to make the conditions for employment in this state just ballpark comparable to what's available on the mainland."
The rise in the number of 457 visas issued across the education sector in Tasmania is a result of more university lecturers recruited from abroad.
The Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) allows employers to recruit foreign nationals for a period of up to four years usually to deal with skills shortages.
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Written by Daniel Waldron and Sanwar Ali
Edited by Sanwar Ali