Essential Skills: Where are the goalposts?

Essential Skills Work Visas seem to be the flavour of the month. Once again, with shifting sands for assessment of these visas, we (the practitioners in the industry) find ourselves flummoxed and inevitably frustrated despite being seasoned players. This stems from a range of factors that collectively make Essential Skills Work Visa one of the trickiest categories to work with. I explore some of these here.

INZ’s increased narrowing approach on assessment of these applications request for superfluous evidence, together with a 66% increase in fees for these visas from 5 November 2018, Essential skills Work Visa is one to watch out for.

The mid-skills category for Essential Skills is under scrutiny. A lot more than it has ever been. INZ appears to be moving the goalpost. Some of the key issues that have come to light are;

·      poorly written PPIs;

·      pigeonholed approaches to many roles and;

·      restrictive ANZSCO matching, resulting in breaches of instructions.

A typical example is someone who has been on an Essential Skills Work Visa previously on an ANZSCO 1, 2 or 3 role. They then apply for a new application with the same job description and same employer; only to be downgraded to a low-skill (ANZSCO 4) role, as suddenly they don’t substantially match the ANZSCO code they were previously matched with.

What makes this so outrageous is the policy specific to substantial matching and ANZSCO code descriptions have themselves remained unchanged. Like ‘constants’ in a mathematical equation, it should be quite simple to ascertain the variable!

Further, when applicants (and their representatives) get stumped by this, a new battle presents itself; seeking a deadline long enough to complete the WINZ process and get a Skill Match Report. INZ has published that WINZ should be listing the vacancy immediately and issue the SMR within 5 working days of the vacancy closing. WINZ website says 2 working days. For those of us who have often dealt with WINZ will know the likelihood that none of the above will be adhered to. This process can take up to 2 weeks, possibly longer in some instances. Forget the pushback from WINZ to not advertise if a role is mid-skill – but has been assessed by INZ as low-skill (retail managers vs. retail supervisors) – but that’s a tale for another day.

Change and progression will only come should we all, work together to create a transparent environment – where inconsistencies and flaws are discussed to produce a solution. Hence, we encourage our fellow stakeholders who have encountered these challenges in their line of work to come forward and engage with us. There is strength in numbers.

“A single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong”

–       Tecumseh



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