Life is sweet for in-demand workers

NIKO KLOETEN
Last updated 05:00 30/05/2014

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New Zealand's worsening skill shortage is bad news for businesses but great news for in-demand workers such as engineers.

Engineers topped the list of the hardest jobs for employers to fill in a new survey by recruitment firm ManpowerGroup, which found 59 per cent of employers are struggling to find skilled workers.

Engineers were joined in the top three hardest jobs to fill by skilled trades, and accounting and finance staff.

IT staff, management and executives, sales representatives, secretaries and administration staff and doctors were also among the top 10.

ManpowerGroup's New Zealand general manager, Matt Love-Smith, said the range of occupations represented in the 10 hardest jobs to fill showed the skill shortage was now widespread.

"What's interesting is the breadth and depth of jobs in the top 10.

"You've got management and executive roles but you've also got secretaries and personal assistants.

"Office support is also in the top 10," he said. "That's significant because it shows demand is really across the board."

Love-Smith said the survey showed many companies were having to change their attitude and approach to recruitment as a result of the tight job market.

Nearly half said they had adopted "non-traditional people practices", such as adding additional training, increasing starting salaries and enhancing benefits.

And businesses were being increasingly forced to focus on training their workers rather than going out and recruiting more experienced staff, he said.

"Traditionally, New Zealand employers have had a focus on experience, technical competence and other ‘hard' skills.

"They need to have more focus on soft skills, and how they can structure training and development."

One company looking to navigate the skill shortage is consulting firm Beca, which is in the midst of a campaign to hire 30 new civil engineers.

Beca's New Zealand recruitment manager, Heather Douglas, said finding all these new staff was not a process that happened overnight.

"It's quite a staggered approach.

"As a business we're always on the lookout for good talent whether there's an active vacancy or not," she said.

"Markets have tightened up, so you have to be quite savvy."

Douglas said networking was important for finding staff, as simply advertising positions often was not enough.

"We keep in touch with New Zealanders overseas.

"We'll have an event at New Zealand House in the UK and put on the Heineken."

One factor helping firms like Beca find staff was the halting of the "brain drain" to Australia, which has led to annual net migration across the Tasman dropping to almost zero as Kiwis choose to stay home or return here.

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"Usually we have to really compete against Australian salaries but that hasn't been there so much," Douglas said. "Previously, people in middle positions could get $20,000 more in Australia but that's slowing down and we're not seeing that quite so much." 

- Stuff

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