Job in New Zealand 'like winning Lotto'

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 18/01/2013

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One hundred nametag-wearing hopefuls are in a room, all chasing a shot at a new life.

It is not an X-Factor New Zealand audition but an overseas recruitment drive by Christchurch construction firm Buildtech.

Directors Phil and Bev Cooper will today embark on their second week-long mission to the Philippines to boost the company's international work force.

About 20 workers will be employed, some by other firms that have asked for the Coopers' expertise in the Southeast Asian nation, which has an export worker market of about 7 million people.

Phil Cooper likened the process to a reality television talent show audition.

"They're all in this room, with their names on them, and me and my wife interview each one," he said.

"It's like them winning Lotto. There are tears and people crying. It blows me out of the water every time; their appreciation at actually having the ability to come and work in our country."

The criteria were strict and background checks thorough. Most candidates needed previous experience working abroad.

The interview process was two-stage, including the Coopers' personal vetting.

"We find by interviewing personally, when they do arrive they know us. We find that better than just putting these people on a plane and when they arrive they don't know anyone," Cooper said.

His wife managed the accommodation, financial and social needs.

Hirings were not limited to the Philippines, but Cooper appreciated the loyalty and work ethic Filipino workers had offered in the past. Kiwi labour was preferred but he was not prepared to "wait 20 years for Christchurch to be rebuilt".

"There's the argument of, 'Why aren't you using local builders?' Well, fine, you get us 20 local builders tomorrow and I'll employ them. As long as they're employable, no problem at all," he said.

"I would love to take some of these critics to the Philippines and some of these countries to see how these people live and the huge sacrifice these guys make. They send so much money back to support their families."

Builtech had continually advertised for staff for the past two years.

"Lately, it's been dismal; just less and less," Cooper said.

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- The Press

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