Kiwi firms struggle to find staff

NICK KRAUSE
Last updated 10:49 30/05/2012
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FAIRFAX NZ
Mechanical engineer Fred Platen shows the basics of arc welding to students Hayden Smith, centre, and Troy Montgomery. Engineers are in big demand from Kiwi employers.

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New Zealand must seriously address its dearth of skilled staff instead ofsurviving day-to-day, says Lincoln Crawley, managing director of recruitment agency ManPower Group.

Nearly half of Kiwi employers are struggling to find key staff, up 11 percentage points on last year, according to ManPower's annual talent shortage survey.

The results sit well above the global average of 34 per cent and have moved past the Asia-Pacific average of 45 per cent.

New Zealand was ranked eighth out of 41 countries for talent shortages, ManPower said.

The positions employers had the most problems filling were for engineers, sales reps and skilled tradespeople, a situation that the Christchurch rebuild would only worsen once it started, Crawley said.

''It's been the same for the last seven years,'' he said.

''We don't seem to be learning from it, we still don't have the right number of skilled trades coming through.

''We don't have the right number of engineers and we're always short of good sales people.

''Businesses had not stopped to ask what they should be doing differently to attract staff, Crawley said.

Businesses should look at aligning their workforce and business strategies, he said.

''Most HR (human resource) departments have really struggled to get the attention of the executive team on anything other than filling roles today.

''Some solutions to ensure a more reliable supply of talent included strategic migration and encouraging employers to engage more with schools and higher education authorities.

This would ensure there was a pipeline of talent. Another consideration could be attracting older, skilled people who had left the industry, and taking unskilled youth from the ranks of the unemployed.

''It's tapping into those non-traditional talent streams,'' Crawley said.

''In order to tap into them, you've got to have a workforce strategy.

''If you're tapping into unemployed youth, there's lots of talent there but talent does not havethe right skills.''

Those could be provided on the job through a ''teachable fit''approach - hiring candidates who meet most criteria but needed further training.

Another option was to consider unbundling job roles so that highly skilled employees undertook only technical tasks, Crawley said.

Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand president Graham Darlow said there were ''no real surprises'' in the survey.

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''The biggest shortage is in technicians and not professional engineers,'' he said. Programmes were in place to try to increase the number of people taking up tertiary study in engineering, however it took around six years from the decision to do that to becoming a useful engineer,he said.

''Ultimately we work in an international labour market for engineering,'' Darlow said.''We've put a lot of effort into international benchmarking of those standards - it makes ourpeople very portable and so they willgo to where the highest salaries are paid".

- Waikato

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