Alex Hatzioannou, Financial Controller for Sydney-based construction company Dilcara, shares how his company has managed to maintain its loyal and skilled staff, with help from immigration consultants at Gruszka and Associates.
Every company is built upon a founding vision and for Dilcara, a multi-disciplinary construction and infrastructure services company based in Sydney, that vision has been set on “breaking the boundaries” since the company’s inception.
Started as a residential project construction company by brothers Antoine and Joe Gittany in 2008, Dilcara has grown rapidly over the years and added new services to its portfolio along the way – from developing apartments and luxury homes in Sydney to managing construction projects and even erecting high-voltage transmission lines through a newly added infrastructure services team.
While the “no-boundary” vision has allowed the company to diversify its services rapidly, it is also reflected in how Dilcara acquires, retains and grows its skilled staff while many in the industry struggle with skills shortages.
“We are always trying to upskill our staff,” says Alex Hatzioannou, Financial Controller at Dilcara.
“We want to make sure that our skilled people are not pigeonholed into any specific role and that they can grow their talents. Because we know that as the team grows, so does the company as a whole.”
In keeping with the same mindset, Hatzioannou’s role within the company is quite diverse. In addition to managing finances as a chartered accountant, he also helps explore new avenues for business diversification, while helping with staff acquisition and training.
Recently, the company was faced with a dilemma. One of their skilled employees, an experienced engineering manager here on a temporary skilled visa, was being forced to leave the country to re-unite with his spouse, who was unable to join him due to the ongoing Australian Government entry limitations for temporary-visa holders during the pandemic.
Monica Gruszka, the Principle Director of Gruszka and Associates, was Alex’s go-to visa expert to seek advice on such matters. Having worked with her in the past to process skilled visa applications for a few other Dilcara employees, Hatzioannou says he had always come out impressed by her team’s professionalism.
“Gruszka and Associates has helped us process three visas for our employees in the past. Monica has always been a delight to work with. Her knowledge of immigration law means she can think of avenues that others might have missed,” says Hatzioannou.
It was the same story this time. While an application to grant a travel exemption for the employee’s spouse was rejected by the Australian Government, Gruszka found that the engineering manager in fact qualified for a permanent skilled visa. Acquiring permanent residency would automatically resolve his problem as his partner could apply for a Partner Visa once his residential status changed from ‘temporary’ to ‘permanent’.
While the latest visa application is still in progress, Hatzioannou further notes that businesses in the construction industry should not hesitate to seek out skills from outside their comfortable circles.
“Our business has always enjoyed hiring new skills that can add to our existing skillset. When we do hire skilled people, we don’t look at it as filling short-term skills gaps. We are seeing the benefits that an employee on a skilled visa can bring to the team and that’s something we want to keep benefitting from as we grow bigger,” says Hatzioannou.
To those employers who might be hesitant to sponsor skilled employees, his massage is: “It’s not that complicated.”
“We have hired many skilled people on a two- or four-year temporary skilled visa, which is a prerequisite for them to qualify for a permanent visa. The only complication we might have faced in the beginning was the language barrier, but the long-term benefits and the employee loyalty has helped not just the company, but the whole team, to achieve more.”
Seeking professional advice
As a Registered Migration Agent who is currently undertaking a law degree, Gruszka says it’s critical for companies looking to sponsor an employee’s visa to seek professional advice.
“Almost all skilled visa applications, be it for a short-term skilled or training visa or for a permanent residency visa, need to go through a skills validation process. We can assist in the validation process,” she says.
“The Australian Government and the Department of Home Affairs are also very strict when it comes to ensuring that the position is genuine. It’s very important that the application is presented well and that the person’s skills are relevant to the advertised position,” she adds.
There are also certain conditions employers need to meet to qualify as sponsors.
“There’s a checklist of conditions that employers must fulfil as sponsors. For example, the company should not have retrenched an Australian working in the same position within the past 12 months. When we work with employers seeking to assist their employees’ case, we verify all those points and make sure only genuine cases are presented to the Department of Home Affairs.”
As a migration expert working closely with both employers and potential employees within the construction industry, Gruszka says she is in a unique position to link the two together.
“Most companies assume that the only place they can find their required skills is on SEEK. Very few think of migration agents as a source for connecting employers to employees. I want to change that,” she says.
“We are currently at the early stages of updating our website so that we can upload the latest resumes of pre-screened applicants. I also regularly send email newsletters to employers within the construction sector, letting them know about the latest resumes I have received. Most people in this industry are not really administration oriented, so I often just call them and if they are interested, introduce them to the candidate,” she adds.
Through her Migration Show Podcast for migration professionals, Gruszka is trying to educate her peers on how they can go above and beyond when working with their clients.
“It’s all about simplification. Our job is to simplify the processes so that busy employers don’t have to worry about anything. The processes can seem overwhelming if you are sponsoring an employee for the first time, but it shouldn’t be, if you have professionals to guide you.”
This article was originally published in the November edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.
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