What can we do in the meantime to satisfy the demand for talented technical staff in Australian technology companies?
According to The Australian Financial Review, we have around 300,000 foreign students in our tertiary institutions, many from China and India who come to Australia to study degrees like software engineering and maths.
We need to do a better job at selling Australia to these students as a permanent home.
A Sydney University lecturer recently told me that historically Chinese students would come to study in Australia and then use that as a path to migrate.
Anecdotally, she's finding that many of the business and engineering students are now more excited by the prospect of being an entrepreneur back in China than by the idea of remaining in Australia.
There has been a lot of debate about the merit of the government's $28 million taxpayer-funded Innovation Statement marketing.
Some of this money might be better spent outside Australia promoting our country as a destination to the world's top tech talent and companies.
Given all the talk about simplifying our 457 regime to help start-ups access critical talent, it's surprising that we've yet to see any action.
The fact that the immigration department takes up to eight weeks to process a 457 application for a software engineer is a joke.
Technology companies in every other country are fighting for the same talent and we are missing out on the best and brightest because of government process.
I recently tried to move an engineer to Australia on a 457 visa. The process was time-consuming and expensive and took the full eight weeks to get approved. In stark contrast, we had an Australian employee organising an E3 visa to work in our US office at the same time. The process was able to be done online and his visa was approved on the spot at the US consulate.
Let's create a program where there is an incentive in the first few years of returning to Australia after having worked in a qualifying technology company overseas.
It is a very encouraging sign for the health of our ecosystem that so many people in the wider community are now talking about start-ups and innovation. In all of the excitement to lay the proper foundations for future growth let's not forget about the issues facing our companies in the here and now.
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