“Sponsoring a foreign skilled worker costs a lot of money. As a start-up business, this can be seen as a risk; but I believe this is the only way for my business to go forward and grow,” said Bernward Bucheler, Manager of Passivhaus Australia.
Bernward recently sponsored Anna Carton, an architectural draftsperson from the UK, to fill a position in his company.
’Passivhaus’ is a German term for the standard of energy efficiency in a building, reducing its ecological footprint. It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling.
Based on Bernward’s research, there are only 19 certified passivhaus designers in Australia. “I have been advertising this position internationally for six months, but the skilled designer with the required skills and substantial industry experience is hard to find. Some of the applicants have no experience and have not actually seen or participated in a Passivhaus build,” said Bernward.
“Anna has everything we require in that position. She has an MSC architecture degree and rich industry experience. Last year, she worked as a principal passivhaus designer and interior designer in Passivhaus Australia, on a working holiday visa. During the six months of her service, she helped to speed up the project process and contributed to the development of our company. “This is the first time we have sponsored a foreign worker using the state nomination process. The team at Immigration SA is helpful, and always there to help out when we call for advice. If this case goes well, I am planning to sponsor another skilled worker from France.”
When talking about the importance of the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme, Bernward said that securing the right designer quickly was essential for this niche market.
“For a start-up company like us, this is a survival issue. If we want to become a ‘smarter country’ and ‘smarter company’, we need to source ‘skilled people’.”
Aurora Hotels and Resorts - the owners of the Ozone Hotel on Kangaroo Island - were introduced to the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme by a fellow business owner as a means of recruiting trained international staff.
The scheme offered the potential for the Ozone Hotel to find appropriately trained employees who had the incentive to remain with the business for at least two years.
Kaye Duncan, Operations Manager at the Ozone, said recruiting staff up until then had been problematical.
"For a range of reasons, we would be turning over staff every few months and often every few weeks,” Ms Duncan said.
“Our first employee under the RSMS came from Sri Lanka as our Bistro Manager and now, four years later, he is our Assistant Manager.
“He and his wife, who is employed at our local chemist, have settled into island living and their seven year old daughter has become a favourite of the local school.
“We now employ nine people on the RSMS, all in key service areas such as chefs, restaurant and office management. Without these terrific employees, we would not have been able to achieve our stated goals of 4 star acknowledgement in both accommodation and dining.
“The RSMS has worked very well for us because previously we had great trouble recruiting and holding local staff.”
South Central Trucks General Manager Bill has assembled a workforce that resembles the United Nations.
His company, which sells and services trucks including Volvos and Macks, now employs 68 people in the workshop of which around 15 per cent are migrant workers from countries including India, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and Poland.
Bill said businesses like his are finding it harder and harder to find skilled employees in Australia. In order to maintain growth his business looks to the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) to access the skilled labour it needs.
The RSMS enables Australian employers to fill skilled, full-time positions with skilled people from overseas. The scheme is only available in South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.
I first started using the RSMS about three years ago when I employed a mechanic from Scotland on the visa. Since then we've had a number of workers who've used the scheme.
We run a company that services commercial trucks and as those trucks represent someone’s business, clients can’t afford to wait around for days while you find the staff to work on the problem.
The RSMS has enabled us to provide better service to our customers. If a customer needs something – however big or small – we can fit them in immediately because we have the staff to do it. It’s a defining feature of our company and it’s been very successful. In 2007 our labour sales grew 21 per cent and we are now the largest truck service provider in SA.
Bill provides support to those joining the company on the RSMS by reimbursing the visa costs, assisting in finding accommodation and providing a relocation allowance.
We have a harmonious workplace and a very low attrition rate. By trial and error we now know what works in the business and what to look for when we recruit our mechanics. We'll continue to use the RSMS because we want long-term employees with specialised, relevant skills.