Manufacturers' wishlist: Immigrants and tradies to ease skills shortage
Factories struggling to find local, skilled workers are putting their pro-immigration hands up ahead of the general election.
ManufacturingNZ released its industry's election manifesto on Wednesday, telling the incoming government it needs help finding staff that know how to use machinery and have relevant qualifications.
ManufacturingNZ executive director Catherine Beard said manufacturers calling for more immigration had already invested heavily in finding and training local talent, but it was not enough.
"They cannot find people who want to do the work."
Therefore immigration was important to her industry, she said - it viewed more immigrants as more workers.
The manifesto said closing our borders to immigrants would limit manufacturers' ability to keep up with demand.
"Any steps to curtail this [immigration] will impact on the growth in manufacturing."
But former leader of the National Party and the ACT Party Don Brash said more immigrants meant more consumer demand, not more worker supply.
It was not guaranteed that they would take up work in factories either, he said.
Beard said better training pathways were needed to encourage more young people to take up jobs in New Zealand factories, otherwise companies could be forced to move their factories offshore.
The solution? More tradespeople, more qualified engineers, and more on-the-job training, Beard said.
"The current government has reoriented vocational trades, but the message is still not getting back to high schools and teachers that a job in manufacturing is a good, and quite lucrative, position."
She said workers with a relevant degree and a trade qualification were "gold" to employers.
The manifesto called for a national strategy to help New Zealand manufacturers compete internationally and not leave its success "to chance".
It also asked for faster depreciation rates for factory machinery and equipment.
The New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association chief executive Dieter Adam said the fast-paced digital evolution meant machinery became obsolete a lot quicker these days, and the rates needed to mirror that.
Adam said the only political party offering a faster depreciation rate policy for manufacturers was New Zealand First.
He said he had raised the point with science and innovation minister Paul Goldsmith, who recognised the need for faster rates.