Plan to solve skills shortfall backed

A South Canterbury employer says an economist's proposal to grant international students permanent residency on graduation could ease skill shortages.

Economist Dr Eric Crampton says the Government should automatically grant permanent resident status to foreign students who graduate with Bachelor's degrees from major New Zealand universities.

Crampton, the New Zealand Initiative think-tank's head of research, said the scheme could "do double duty in reducing skills shortages and in supporting the tertiary sector" by encouraging international students, who pay relatively high fees compared with domestic students, to study in New Zealand.

Polarcold Stores chief executive Kevin Cahill said yesterday the proposal "makes a lot of sense".

The company had been short of one or two refrigeration engineers for 18 months, and did not see the situation improving. It was "almost impossible" to find affordable refrigeration engineers in New Zealand.

Although the company had sought workers through overseas employment agencies, it was "not a cheap exercise" and it was easier to know how a worker would perform in a team environment "when you can eyeball them".

Rangitata MP Jo Goodhew referred a request for comment on the proposal to Minister of Immigration Michael Woodhouse. His office referred the request for comment to the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

A MBIE spokesman said graduates already qualified for 12-month open work visas, and those who had job offers of fulltime employment relevant to their qualifications could then apply for further 24-month visas.

An Employers and Manufacturers' Association survey this month stated 58 per cent of employers found it "difficult" or "very difficult" to attract suitable candidates for skilled positions.

Crampton said the Tertiary Education Commission could continue quality assurance work to ensure degree programmes did not become immigration rorts.

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 - The Timaru Herald

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