Canterbury factories humming

CECILE MEIER
Last updated 05:00 14/07/2014

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Canterbury's factory floors are humming with activity following a revival of the manufacturing industry in the region driven by the rebuild and a booming agricultural sector.

Trade Me and local recruitment agencies say the number of manufacturing jobs advertised have soared in recent months, with a skills shortage looming over the industry.

The number of jobs advertised on Trade Me in the June quarter for manufacturing were 73 per cent ahead of the same time last year.

Machine operators were in hot demand, up 152 per cent comparing the June quarter 2014 compared with the June quarter 2013.

The industry was also looking for processors and assemblers, up 72 per cent, and storepeople and warehouse roles, up 56 per cent.

Employment figures from Statistics New Zealand showed a 10 per cent increase in people working in the manufacturing industry in the year to the March 2014 quarter.

A total of 46,500 Cantabrians worked in manufacturing in the March 2014 quarter, which is 13 per cent of the total workforce of 356,900.

New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association (NZMEA) chief executive John Walley said manufacturers related to the rebuild and the agricultural sector were experiencing growth.

However, many Canterbury manufacturers were focused on exports.

For those, the exchange rate was a major concern.

Demand in the industry was bigger than Canterbury and the rebuild, he said.

"Trading partner performance is crucial, and this is still patchy."

Finding the highly skilled workers that the sector demanded was difficult, Walley said. A focus on training within the construction industry could hollow out future supply of skilled workers in other areas.

"The rebuild has pulled some supply of labour, particularly for lower level work . . . It is making finding entry level staff more difficult for some, and adding some upwards pressure on entry level wages."

Recruitment agencies Hays and Randstadt both reported a skills shortage in manufacturing.

Randstadt general manager for Christchurch Penni Hlaca said machine operators, assemblers, trade assistants and storeman roles were the most in demand in Canterbury.

There was strong competition for talent from the civil and construction sectors.

However manufacturing wages had not increased as steadily as other rebuild-related sectors in Canterbury.

Managing director of Hays New Zealand Jason Walker said Christchurch already had a strong manufacturing presence prior to the quakes with companies like Tait and Skellerup.

But the rebuild and the agricultural sector had been fuelling growth.

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- The Press

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