Leilani Abels, Thrive founder and managing director
As the Jobs & Skills Summit kicks off in Canberra today, millions of business owners, like myself, wait with bated breath to learn what policymakers and decision influencers will come up with to address the skills shortage and worker immigration crisis - and how quickly they can make change.
The Public Relations industry for too long has been reliant on importing consultants, there’s a lack of volume of talent coming through the ranks with the fundamental skills required; elitism in comms course access to overcome; ageism (for women in particular); a lack of diversity is rife and a silent issue; and the lack of childcare access alongside exorbitant costs, does the industry no justice.
Couple all of this with the fact that communications professionals have never been in such high demand since the pandemic, especially in sectors such as technology and health, and you could say it’s the perfect storm - and possibly an industry crisis (I think opportunity) that’s never been seen before.
Not until recently have our industry leaders stood up to try to influence change and at Thrive, we’ve aggressively pressed for industry involvement and a voice at the table.
It’s not rocket science what needs to happen and here’s what could make the difference immediately :
Public Relations must be recognised on the long-term skills occupation list delivering visas allowing for a pathway to permanent residency for our international workers - the National Skills Commission needs to do six monthly reviews to keep up with skills changes.
Skilled working visa costs must be reduced substantially for individuals and sponsoring employers including the abolition of training levies and high government fees.
The Australian permanent residency pandemic visa costs must be removed immediately - Thrive recently committed to ALL of our eligible temporary visa holders yet costs at almost $20k per person are gobsmacking, unfair to loyal employees who’ve already committed to building Australia’s economy, and prohibitive for SMEs.
Immigration processing times need to be cut in half and the visa application process simplified.
Australia must deliver a more competitive visa offer for international workers, such as family relocation incentives - the UK’s Scale Up program and other countries are ahead…this week’s summit must deliver more action than talk.
Childcare - as we know - must be overhauled to get more female workers incentivised to return to work. We must think differently! Business and individual tax breaks could be introduced by the government, such as allowing companies to package costs of childcare without FBT and allowing individuals to pay subsidised childcare costs, pre-tax. The government could match a company’s return-to-work-early sign-on bonus…it can be done!
Agency owners - particularly the cool cats in PR, digital and advertising - need to make a concerted effort to welcome more diversity into our industry including consultants with decades of maturity and experience, and those who are not Anglo-Saxon ~ I’m a proud Kiwi-born, half Samoan agency owner and I do not see many of us around!
…and there’s more.
So it’s time to innovate, press the government for change and results, and as a public relations industry step up and start doing things differently.
Our time is now.