Forget about 457’s for your kitchen brigade, the new number is 402!

By Mark Field and Peter Hayes

There’s no doubt, when implemented correctly, 457 Visas have their place in helping address the skill and labour shortage problems. 457 candidates can also bring new skills, techniques and cuisines to spark new life into commercial kitchens in Australia. But, they are expensive and despite being assessed and issued with an Australian qualification, candidates generally still require extensive training and guidance in the workplace.

The amount that 457 candidates must be paid ($53,900) considerably restricts their usage, as for many hospitality organisations this amount would only be paid to the more senior members of the kitchen brigade i.e chef de partie, sous chef or even head chef. The reality is, most kitchens can’t even afford one 457 candidate let alone the two, three or more they need to fill the labour shortage in their brigades. Therein lies the problem, many kitchens need more than one extra member in their brigades and many of these vacant positions are at the lower commi chef level. Commis are the workers, the sets of hands that will do what has to be done to meet the day-to-day production requirements of kitchens. Filling these important commis chef level positions with 457 candidates quickly becomes cost-prohibitive for an organisation.

So what is the solution?

What if you could find a semi-skilled candidate that you could train-up to your standards, not have to pay them the 457 rate and have them put through the rigour of undertaking a work based Australian trade qualification from scratch?

Enter the Training and Research visa (subclass 402). This visa has three streams, however, there is only one stream appropriate to solve our industry needs and that is the Occupational Trainee stream. Occupational trainees are workers who need structured workplace-based training to enhance their skills in their current occupation, area of tertiary study, or field of expertise.

To be eligible for this stream, candidates must have completed at least 12 months full-time or equivalent work experience in a commercial kitchen environment. This means you are not getting someone completely ‘green’, rather they are semi-skilled and most importantly they want to become a chef.

For obvious geographical reasons, many occupational trainees in Australia are sourced from Asian countries such as Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and India. Workers from these countries are well known for their strong work ethic, respect for ‘the boss’, team focus and value placed on education and training. Characteristics that some employers would argue are sadly missing from their western counterparts.

Another important point to be made about occupational trainees is that you can have them for up to 24 months and potentially longer if you extend or apply for other employer-sponsored visas. This means you will be getting a very good return for the time, effort and expense that you have put into your occupational trainee.

Occupational trainees have the potential to be long-term and highly valued members of a hospitality organisation. It’s only a matter of time before the 402 ‘sleeping giant’ will awaken and hospitality employers will realise it is a far more attractive option than other subclass visa categories.

Click here if you want more information or are interested in finding an occupational trainee for your business.

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