Tammy Kassiou highlights the leadership, determination and global foresight of the private sector to work together to find solutions for the workforce challenges facing nations with closed borders during the pandemic.
The negative consequences of the pandemic on the global economy have remained a deep concern for private business owners, workers and governments alike throughout 2020 and well into 2021, as waves of the devastating virus force countries all over the world to enter cycles of closing and re-opening borders and businesses merely to shutter them again.
According to Tammy Kassiou, founder and chair of International Mobility Services (IMS), getting back on our feet after the pandemic, on a global scale, is going to require the leaders of countries to cooperate and form a strategic, but ultimately humanitarian, plan to efficiently mobilise the scores of available workers to the industries and countries where they are needed most.
Themelina Kassiou, affectionately known as Tammy Kassiou, is the business woman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist behind the leading, multinational training, worker mobilisation and skills development company International Mobility Services (IMS).
Kassiou emphasises that the way forward for the private sector is to demonstrate resilience and leadership during periods of workforce shortage by continuing to build upon and utilise international employment connections. Intuition and vigorous leadership is also necessary.
“Tapping into intuition enables business leaders to realise the potential for growth and achievement for both themselves, as individuals, and for their company. Quite often, intuition tells people they need to collaborate with businesses complementary to their own.
Being an intuitive leader, and turning competitors into allies during times of financial crisis, is a powerful way to succeed in today’s world of constant and unexpected challenges, Kassiou said.
A significant challenge faced by businesses in the Australian private sector at the moment is the shortage of skilled and unskilled workers in industries that have traditionally relied heavily on backpackers and temporary overseas workers.
For years, backpackers and temporary overseas workers have bolstered the Australian private sector by filling vacant positions — such as produce picking and temporary hospitality roles – and contributing their skills to local businesses and communities. The arrival of COVID-19 and subsequent border closures has, however, brought the part of the sector to its knees.
Agriculture, aged care and the hospitality and tourism sectors are one of the worst affected groups within the private sector, as they annually rely on backpackers and international employees on temporary working visas to make up more than a third of their labour force.
Australian workers, especially those based in urban areas of the country, are unlikely and often unwilling to travel to rural outback to labour on farms and pick the produce which fill the shelves of the national grocery shops.
This set-back not only jeopardises Australia’s food prices, and therefore our national food security levels, but deepens the inequality experienced by workers from our nearest neighbouring countries by denying access to seasonal jobs which many families and communities have counted upon for years.
According to Kassiou, the worker shortage can be solved through international cooperation, strong leadership and effective organisation. IMS is a global employment business which seeks to train, screen and mobilise skilled workers to the part of the world they are most needed in.
“Our experience in so many different countries means we can leverage our strong local knowledge and expertise to assist both companies and individuals, and maintain relationships across national borders, even while they’re not permitted to cross them,” Tammy explained.
IMS offers a range of specialised services which simplify and reduce costs on the process of hiring overseas temporary workers for employers. These services include assessing and presenting shortlisted candidates to the employers for final selection, creating and formalising letters of employment, lodging visas and organising medical paperwork on the behalf of employers, and more.
IMS’ main services for jobseekers and employees are mobilisation preparation assistance, comprehensive and specific training and skills development, and vital support throughout the entire recruitment process.
“The support and development opportunities we offer jobseekers helps fortify the global workforce during times of shortage,” Kassiou said.
“The training courses we provide through our employment program are optimised to provide the skillsets workers need to be work-ready to take on jobs at home, or across the globe.
“IMS has aggregated a database of seasonal, unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled workers who are thoroughly pre-screened, assessed on aptitude and ability, and ready to mobilise to where their contribution, work and labour would make an impact.
Right now, in Australia, those areas are primarily produce farms and regional businesses where the regular influx of labour has been minimised to a trickle.
However, there is good news. Organisations like IMS are continuously and proactively seeking solutions by connecting and working together with private sector organisations across the globe including those located in Australia.
“The most effective way to move forward and reinvigorate the industries hit by the pandemic is to work together, create new connections, and support one another in expanding and maintaining business,” said Tammy Kassiou.
“Right now, it is the private sector leading the way. We are building a network of businesses and leaders that are working together to identify how we can solve the worker shortage.
“We are currently assisting a number of horticultural businesses and aged care providers in Australia to access workers from Timor Leste and Vanuatu. The perception is that governments have closed borders and left businesses to fail – and we are now trying to connect businesses with each other to find a way through and come up with worker solutions.
This approached was recently exemplified by the partnership between IMS and Vanuatu Pathways, an organisation that provides recruitment of workers out of Vanuatu for Australian businesses and industries. The collaboration, announced last month, will unite the knowledge, candidate pools and expertise of IMS and Vanuatu Pathways to counteract the skilled worker shortage caused in the Australasian area by the pandemic.
The partnerships IMS has formed demonstrate an approach towards preparing for the recovery of industries and economies which have been sustained by the mobilisation of backpackers and temporary workers between countries.
Tammy emphasises that the IMS model always ensures the safety and good health of the employees they provide services to, asserting that a powerful safety culture is central to the business.
“The safety of everyone is a key aspect of our business philosophy. IMS invests heavily in safety through specialist personnel and training resources to create an environment which encourages and empowers our people to place their personal safety and that of their work mates above all other priorities,” Kassiou said.
“Safety is an absolute priority for IMS. Our safety inductions and programs teach individuals about risk awareness and recognition, and emphasise personal responsibility. The foundation of all of our training services is strong leadership, effective communication and continuous dialogue with both our employer clients and employee candidates.”
Businesses like IMS are anticipating changes to the arrangement of the post-pandemic world, and are reacting promptly to the exhaustion the private sector is experiencing by sharing ideas and collaborating to discover solutions, one of which is the effective distribution and mobilisation of employees and skill between countries.
Currently located in Dili, Timor-Leste, Themelina Kassiou (Tammy Kassiou), leads and manages her companies across multiple countries and also provides mentoring for many emerging leaders in her industry.
Tammy Kassiou is the founder and chairperson of Philotimo Group, a global business which overarches a number of complementary businesses that provide leadership, expertise and services across the training and job placement sector to a broad range of industries in multiple countries including: Timor-Leste, Vanuatu and Pacific Islands, Philippines, Mozambique, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Greece and Europe.