NZ IT jobs a tough sell to Aussies

If you're prepared to go across, NZ is offering to hire IT professionals.
Peter Riches

If you're prepared to go across, NZ is offering to hire IT professionals.

Hold the sheep jokes, and listen up: New Zealand wants to give Australian technology workers up to 50,000 jobs.

While the Land of the Long White Cloud may not have the cachet of Silicon Valley, San Francisco or other high tech hubs, there's apparently a host of opportunities for workers with information communications technology skills willing to scale the ditch.

With its economy pumping, New Zealand expects to create 50,000 new jobs by 2017, many of them in ICT.

The country's Immigration Skills Shortage list features a spread of high tech roles. They include multimedia designers, project managers, web developers, database administrators, security specialists, testers, software engineers, developers, programmers, enterprise architects and telecom engineers.

As part of its push to import talent, the Government is hosting the Sydney New Zealand Job Expo at Sydney Town Hall on the weekend and has plans for similar events in Brisbane and Melbourne in early 2015.

Exhibitors include ICT systems integrator Datacom, financial services technology supplier Fiserv, electronic road toll technology developer Eroad and the online notice board TradeMe.

The latter is on the hunt for SQL database professionals and mobile and .net developers while Fiserv is hoping to hire mobile developers to work on its mobile banking, alerting and payment solutions.

Vendors will hold walk-in interviews and make on-the-spot offers to suitable candidates.

But persuading high calibre workers to make the leap can be easier said than done, according to Xero managing director Chris Ridd who's been attempting to do so for some time.

The listed accounting software firm is headquartered in Wellington but has shifted some work to Melbourne because of difficulties sourcing developers locally.

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"Building a global company out of a city the size of Geelong - you hit a ceiling," Ridd said.

A recruitment drive in the UK earlier in the year had enjoyed modest success and the company had hired some returning Kiwi expats who'd worked at Microsoft in the US, he added.

Persuading top talent to move to a tiny market is a difficult proposition, agrees Mitchell Harper, co-founder of Bigcommerce, one of Australia's most successful software start-ups.

"The quality of life in Australia and competitive salaries combined with a string of successful local technology companies that have already built billion dollar businesses on the world scale makes New Zealand a tough sell," Harper said.

President of the Australian Computer Society Brenda Aynsley says our next door neighbour's sudden spruik for talent does not come as a surprise.

Star international performers such as Xero and the Mahara digital portfolio software have given New Zealand's high tech sector a fillip, Aynsley said.

"It's a small economy so you can get a large effect out of a relatively small change," she said.

Human traffic has traditionally flowed the opposite direction and New Zealand ICT professionals living in Australia would likely be "first cabs off the rank to return home" if acceptable opportunities presented themselves, she added.

ICT recruiters have been less than exuberant about job prospects for ICT workers in Australia in recent years.

This year they sounded a cautious note of hope that the market had begun a modest recovery, after several anni horribili, marked by mass offshoring of ICT roles and stagnant pay and conditions for those who've remained in work.

Digital and mobile developers and business intelligence and data analytics specialists were in demand and a campaign to lure them offshore could intensify the shortage, according to Ambition Technology managing director Andy Cross.

"We're struggling to get resources here so it will be more of a pain point if we see an exodus of people across the ditch," he said.

Jeff Knowles, the general manager for Peoplebank in NSW, said ICT workers could expect remuneration in New Zealand to be commensurate with what's on offer locally: "Any downside on salary/rates is likely to be made up with a lower cost of living."

Most Australian permanent residents can live and work in New Zealand without a visa.

Are you are IT pro who's looking for their next opportunity? Would you consider accepting a gig across the ditch?

 

 - AGE Contributor

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