Improving employability for 417 & 462 visa holders

In recent months there have been many changes to the way harvest labour can be sourced in Australia. Most of these changes have been good for growers with several programs expanded, new ones introduced and some red tape removed.

For 417 and 462 visa holders, however, this may mean less opportunities for them as employers lean toward other alternatives.

As labour supply options for employers increase, this will naturally mean less opportunities for visa holders wishing to apply for 2nd and 3rd year visa extensions.

417 and 462 visa holders need to be aware of these trends and respond accordingly by looking at ways to enhance their employability in a  competitive market place.

Some suggestions for enhancing the prospects of gaining seasonal employment in the horticulture industry in Australia are as follows:

Be physically fit

Farm work is generally outside and requires a certain level of flexibility, fitness and stamina to be successful.  You don’t need to be an elite athlete, but a person who can work in a physical environment all day is more likely to be regarded by a farm employer.  When piecework is offered, a fitter person with more stamina is likely to earn more than someone without those attributes.

Come with a positive work ethic and attitude

“A poor attidude gets more people fired than any other single factor, and a good attitude gets people jobs and helps them keep those jobs more than any other factor.” Zig Ziglar

Choose optimism over pessimism and cynicism and be able to control negative emotions and frustrations.

Be prepared for hard work and think and practice initiative, generosity, tolerance, tact, kindliness and common sense.

Gain some basic experience in horticulture prior to arrival

Any experience obtained on a farm, even outside of Australia prior to arrival, will be highly regarded by farmers looking for employees.  Whether this be picking a variety of fruit and vegetables or working in a packing shed or coolstore, this experience will put jobseekers ahead of the pack irrespective of the length of the experience obtained. Familiarity with different crops, tools, machinery and working environments is an advantage.

Don’t be dependent upon others to provide transport and accommodation

Consider being as self sufficient as possible and avoid dependency on employers for transport and accommodation. Not only will these factors increase access to opportunities in more isolated areas but will make the worker much more attractive from an employment perspective.

There have never been more options available for growers and employers to access and fill labour needs.

With family and other Australian workers making up the majority of the agricultural workforce and workers from Pacific island nations becoming more popular, WHM visa holders will need to adapt to changing circumstances in order to remain competitive in the labour market place.

Obtain specialist skills by completing relevant short courses either prior to arrival or very shortly after arrival

Once arrived in Australia there are relevant short courses available around the country that will enhance the prospects of anyone looking for farm work. There may even be online courses that will help.

Below are courses and licences that will enhance the chances of any person seeking farm work.

i.) A standard/basic forklift drivers course – usually 2-3 days to complete.

Forklift drivers are always in demand to operate in packing sheds and coolstores but are also required on certain farms.

ii.) An Elevating Work Platform license will allow operation of scissor lifts, boom lifts and cherry pickers under 11 metres.

Elevated platforms are becoming more common in the horticulture industry particularly in citrus, stonefruit and cherry harvesting and will also be utilised in packing sheds.

iii.) A regular (manual preferred) vehicle licence is highly recommended but also consider licences that will allow riding/driving and operation of motor bikes, quad bikes and trucks.

Along with forklift drivers, there is currently a constant shortage of truck drivers in the country and those with appropriate licenses will quickly obtain work and be paid at an hourly rate.

All states and territories in Australia have a uniform driver licence system.

Table Source: Wikipaedia

iv) Other skills that will make visa holders more employable include:

  • Any experience in tractor driving
  • Any experience in operating harvesting machinery
  • Any experience in pruning vines and fruit trees
  • Any experience in canopy maintenance
  • Any experience in operating hand tools
  • Any experience in operating and maintaining basic machinery
  • Any experience in irrigation work including the installation and maintenance of pumps and sprinklers
  • First Aid and CPR training
  • Any training in handling chemicals, dangerous and hazardous goods
  • Any other OH&S traning such as manual handling.

For further information call the National Harvest Labour Information Service (NHLIS) on 1800 062 332. The NHLIS is operated by MADEC, a not-for-profit agency and there is no charge for using the service.