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Scott Farquhar on why Atlassian spends millions on local staff training, but still needs 457 visas

Eloise Keating /

Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar has given insights into how much money the tech company invests in supporting, hiring and training local workers, in response to claims the company has a preference for hiring from other countries.

In an article published by The Conversation last week, IT expert David Glance wrote about Atlassian’s advocacy for the retention of visa schemes that allow Australian companies to bring in skilled workers from overseas on temporary assignments when talent can’t be found locally.

The fate of skilled 457 visas has been the subject of debate for much of this year, after the federal government proposed to replace the visas with a new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa, which would come with a host of new requirements.

The government took submissions on the proposals as part of a public review and a report from that review is reportedly due to be released this month.

Farquhar and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes have both previously spoken out about how they believe the changes will negatively affect the local tech industry, and last week Farquhar told Fairfax the very fact that the changes had been proposed has already had an impact.

“The Australian government has gone a long way towards damaging our reputation as a place that people want to come and work globally,” he said.

“Even before these new ideas have become law, the sentiment that the government has sent globally is that they are almost shouting out that Australia is closed for business.”

Cannon-Brookes has previously been quoted as saying around a quarter of Atlassian’s 1000 employees are on 457 temporary migration visas, and many of these employees play a role in training new graduates within the company.

However, Glance argued in his article that “the threat posed by government changes to the 457 visa system have been largely overblown” and that IT-related jobs will still be covered by the proposed Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa.

He suggested that Atlassian’s believes “it is obviously better to hire experience that somebody else has invested the money to develop – rather than spend that time, effort and money themselves”.

In response, Farquhar said that is far from the reality.

“The idea that companies like Atlassian are importing from Silicon Valley because it’s easier is simply untrue,” he said in comments provided to SmartCompany and posted in the comments section of The Conversation’s article.

“It’s easier, quicker and cheaper to hire people locally.

“Atlassian hires experienced tech professionals from all over the world – we’ve hired more tech professionals from Europe than we have the US, and do so due to the shortage of senior talent in Australia needed to grow our industry.”

Farquhar said once employed, those workers on 457 visas also have access to the investments the company makes in learning and development for all staff.

“We have invested over $1 million in the last 12 months alone,” he said.

The Conversation’s article also suggested that Atlassian is currently only hiring for senior roles for its Australian operations, based on job listings on the company’s website.

However, Farquhar said the reason there are no current job ads for graduate roles with the company in Australia is because its 2018 graduate intake has already been finalised.

“We have 68 new interns and grads joining Atlassian in the next three months,” he said.

“Over the past five years, we have hired almost 200 grads in engineering, development and design roles, investing millions in salaries, training and resources.”

In addition, Farquhar said Atlassian also provides financial support to a range of initiatives that encourage computer science skills in young Australians.

“Atlassian has invested more than $2 million into Australian scholarships, as well as sponsoring a large number of computer science societies and student hackathons,” he said.

“We are also heavily invested in NCSS (National Computer Science School) as an annual gold sponsor with the mission of making coding accessible for all kids in Australia.”

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Eloise Keating

Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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  • Lisa

    This is a business investing in Australias future and putting us on the map as a global tech player…The gov needs to start enabling our ability to be competitor fit and that means allowing companies to invest in the right capability, no matter what..