Recruiting in a skills shortage-ravaged industry — don’t baulk at employing overseas talent


By Building Recruitment managing director Kevin Everett


Are things looking up regarding skills? Well, there is good news and bad!

Recently, Seek sent out a report showing industry sectors and applications per job advertised.

The good news is Construction had the largest increase in applications against all other sectors.

The sector grew more than 34% from the same period last year, and Trades and Services were also on the increase in fifth spot, with a more than 15% increase.

How good is this for our industry? It certainly looks promising until you delve deeper.

When we look at the applications we are receiving, more applicants are coming from overseas — mainly South Africa, Asia and India — than from New Zealand.

This is across all roles we advertise and not just from Seek-advertised positions. Even our adverts for our Labour Hire division are following the same trend.


60% of enquiry from overseas

More than 60% of enquiry via our web site is from international applicants looking to move to New Zealand.

Again, this should be good news, as we are in dire need of skilled labour, like most countries around the world.

These applicants come with great experience and skills, as well as an awesome work ethic. But when we discuss them in the marketplace, far too many companies are still looking for the impossible — that is, skilled labour with New Zealand experience.

So why are these strong skilled workers not being considered? We are talking about project managers, builders, salespeople, store managers, architectural designers/technicians and truss detailers, to name a few.

Yes, our build process can be different, but many have studied NZS3604, NZS3910 and other codes to try and get up to speed before they even arrive in New Zealand.

What we have noticed is when we take these people to market, we are regularly being told that due to having no New Zealand experience, employers are not interested, or are reluctant to consider them right away.

When we are facing such a skill shortage, I must ask the following questions:

Is it not possible to train these people to the New Zealand way?

How long would it realistically take to bring them up to speed?

What New Zealand experience are we talking about?


Transferrable skills

A language barrier would be the greatest challenge, but skills-wise, I am sure many adjust quickly due to the fact their skills are transferrable.

How many Kiwi builders have moved overseas and settled into things quickly?

Many of our clients have grasped this opportunity and have enjoyed great success. And I can assure you, if you are not looking at overseas applicants, your opposition is.

The interesting thing is, by the time some companies think about things and come back to us, the candidate already has a job with a more proactive company.

How often has that happened to you? Before searching, ensure you know exactly what you want, what you can train, how long it’s likely to take to train, what resources you need to complete the training, and to be flexible. 


How long will it take to find the ideal person?

How much will I need to pay them?

If they come to me for money, will they leave for the same reason?

Could I train someone who already has a trade qualification in that time?

So be prepared to act quickly, but please do not sacrifice your pre-employment screening.

It is time to look outside the square and have a more open mind, especially when you factor in increased numbers of companies advertising for the same skills you are, and salaries increasing monthly.

Seek New Zealand general manager Janet Faulding recently reported that in their last survey dated September 2018, companies advertising for Trades and Service increased by 18%. We believe it has grown further since then.

This certainly demonstrates there is a need, and many are poaching from others, causing inflated wages when build pricing is too high already.

Looking at migrant workers will certainly reduce the amount of poaching and keep wages at a sustainable level.

Our own salary survey for Auckland shows salaries have increased over the past four years by between 20% and 25%, with sales, carpentry/building, quantity surveying/estimating, and project management showing the highest increases.

The opportunities are there to find the skills you require. It is now up to you to grab them.

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