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The myth of “Australian experience”

​2021 was undoubtedly the year of the candidate. After the horror show of 2020 and mass layoffs, the demand for talent arrived in 2021 like no other year on record.

Whether candidates were active job seekers or happily engaged with their employers, the recruitment hotline was flashing red with role after role and more and more money and flexibility on the table to entice even the most highly engaged candidates across the Australian technology market.

Such was the level of demand that many candidates moved more than once, fast tracking career trajectories and increasing salaries by up to 30%.

Demand in 2022 continues, with no sign yet of “the great resignation”, perhaps a product of organisations taking advantage of remote working technology to create increasingly harder-to-leave environments.

Where is the tech talent now?

So where do organisations look for tech talent? The simple answer it would seem, would be to look at the influx of talent arriving – or planning to arrive – from overseas markets.

However, a surprising majority of Australian organisations seem to be defaulting back to an age-old adage, namely “candidates must have Australian experience”. This seems to make very little sense in the Australian tech workforce of 2022.

What is Australian experience?

So what part of the “Australian experience required” is uniquely Australian?

Firstly, it seems obvious that tech people from all over the world have figured out how to work remotely, autonomously, and productively regardless of their nationality and/or culture. Haven’t we all?

Slotting into a team in 2022 is a behavioural skill that does not appear to be uniquely Australian, nor does there appear to be a special way of working which we alone have adopted and kept secret from the rest of the World.

Next, the suggestion that perhaps our workplaces, environments, or work practices are either more complex or harder to learn seems never to have held much water. A tech candidate from Finland, India, or Bulgaria would, or at least could, have worked with sophisticated tech in complex business environments and managed multiple and diverse stakeholders in much the same way that is expected or necessary in Australia. That is a transferable skill regardless of your country of origin.

Thirdly, and perhaps most perplexing, is the commonality of the technical language the world over. Software development is software development anywhere you go – the same language, the same processes, the same frameworks, and technical stacks from Belgium to Brazil and Chile to China. Is there really a difference in Australian technical skills?

Particularly in software and data analytics, there are globally recognised standards that surely undermine the need for local experience. There is an argument to suggest that candidates from some other regions (the UK and US for example) are working on technical assignments that are more advanced than we are here in Australia.

We all seem to have found the ability to work with distributed teams who speak different languages to us, or at least not as proficient in English, but surely we have moved on from there.

Great tech talent is great tech talent

Great tech talent is great tech talent irrespective of the country they are from, with many countries having significantly deeper talent pools that we enjoy here in Australia.

Visa issues don’t seem to be the issue any longer either. Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visas enable 12 months continuous work, and software and applications programmers (ANZSC0 code 261399) has 12 visas including the skilled nominated subclass 190 permanent residency visa. Could sponsorship be a way to offset the aggressive market increases incumbent in hiring local talent?

We’ve spent 2 years complaining about borders being shut and our organisations being understaffed, yet the prevailing sentiment seems to be to wait for other organisations to hire migrants to Australia and hire the people they displace.

That might be a long wait.

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