Jobs boom set to continue

By Sandra Conchie, Lydia Anderson

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Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby

A Bay of Plenty jobs boom is predicted to continue throughout 2014.

In December the Bay of Plenty Times reported that the Bay had been named a hot spot for jobs, with figures revealing the region had doubled the amount of new positions compared with the national average.

Optimism is high throughout the jobs sector with hopes the upward trend will continue this year.

Tauranga mayor Stuart Crosby said 2014 promised to be a good year for the city, with local retailers in particular positive about consumer confidence.

Mr Crosby said construction in Tauranga was "going gangbusters".

For the past six months the industry had generated $25 million to $30 million every month, with 74 new home permits issued in November alone, he said.

Enrolments at tertiary institutes were on the up, which meant more skilled workers would graduate to contribute to the local economy.

Wage increases would depend on increased productivity, but economists had told him signs were positive so far, he said.

"But I think there's always a 'but' there, it can always be fragile in New Zealand."

The kiwifruit industry, which had "taken a big hit" from the Psa-V virus last year, was an important source of supplementary income for retired and semi-retired people, as well as a strong employer of youth.

The council had also invested in essential infrastructure to encourage regional growth, he said.

"That's why we have such a high debt."

He said looking ahead, food technologies and marine sciences were two areas that could bring growth to Tauranga.

Meanwhile, staff working in Waikato University's marine science department were focusing on how the Western Bay marine environment could be utilised for bioscience technology - "using our own natural resources in an innovative way".

Chief executives of some of the city's biggest companies had also told him Tauranga youth who had travelled outside the region - now in their late 20s and early 30s - were starting to return to the city to raise their families and look for skilled work.

"It's really important opportunities are provided for them."

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce operations, events and training manager Anne Pankhurst said there was a stronger confidence in the economy.

"Certainly Tauranga's businesses are feeling more confident. The growth has been steady and solid now and not so lumpy, and businesses are confident that their investment will be sustained.

"There is a sense that we have turned the corner. With the changes in the retail sector there are some businesses that are still struggling," she said.

Personnel Resources Tauranga director Ian Chitty said the latest statistics pointed to an improved economy.

"I think the next couple of years are looking pretty good."

Exports out of Port of Tauranga were high - "that's a big driver of employment", he said.

"I think also people are looking to Tauranga as another location, maybe moving from Auckland."

However, Bay recruitment agencies say skilled tradies are short on the ground.

Tradestaff northern operations manager Grant Kedian said the 2013/14 calendar year transition has been "very interesting" across the Bay of Plenty.

"Tradestaff experienced strong growth in the Tauranga area with trades qualified candidates being snapped up incredibly quickly. Quarter three leading into Christmas proved consistent with high levels of business confidence across Tauranga, driving strong candidate requirements throughout the trades and engineering sectors."

Mr Kedian said Tauranga continued to look extremely buoyant with many clients actively seeking skilled staff particularly in the trades sector.

"It is imperative that trades-focused companies across Tauranga are acutely aware of the impending skills shortage and act in the immediate term to secure skilled and, in particularly, qualified trades staff."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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