Diana Clement

Your Money and careers writer for the NZ Herald

Top job opportunities on the boil

Salaries are expected to rise as a talent war is waged over highly sought-after local and returning Kiwis.

The market for engineering jobs looks good despite the Mainzeal collapse. Photo / Kim Steele
The market for engineering jobs looks good despite the Mainzeal collapse. Photo / Kim Steele

Engineering and construction started this year as hot industries for jobs. The collapse of Mainzeal flooded the market with motivated jobseekers. Yet the outlook for the rest of the year remains good, say recruiters.

Recruitment company Hays says the hot jobs this year are residential project managers, civil project managers and structural engineers.

Since the latest Hays Quarterly Report the market has been affected by the Mainzeal collapse, which left thousands of workers and some contractors/subcontractors scrambling to get work.

Yet there are still job openings at the top of construction, says Mark Robinson, managing director of Allerton Recruitment. The market for senior quantity surveyors and project managers has taken off this year. Job vacancies have also increased for intermediate quantity surveyors.

"Last year having a senior quantity surveyor paid up to $150,000 a year was a big overhead," says Robinson.

Whilst they weren't needed, many quantity surveyors headed overseas. Now the tide is turning. "The trouble is that when you need them you can never find them," says Robinson.

Salaries are expected to rise in the construction industry - particularly for residential contractors in Christchurch, says Jason Walker, managing director of Hays in New Zealand.

"A talent war is anticipated to take place, which will drive up salaries for top candidates and increase new arrivals to the region."

It's not all rosy for jobseekers. Vacancies at construction and engineering giant Beca have halved since Christmas. In part that is due to several big roading projects coming to an end, including the Victoria Park Tunnel, the Waikato Expressway and Tauranga Eastern Link.

"In Auckland Beca is working on the Waterview tunnel and motorway project which continues to employ a large number of local engineers and constructors," says Don Lyon, Beca's New Zealand managing director.

Beca has moved some of its recruitment spend away from recruitment agencies to more direct engagement with potential candidates and to selected social media tools such as LinkedIn, which Lyon says is particularly suited to organisations seeking specialist technical skills.

Beca, which employs 1800 people in New Zealand, has noticed the Christchurch earthquakes have raised awareness of recruitment within the sector. Lyon says Beca's senior technical experts have made a conscious effort to connect with their networks and make themselves available to meet with potential recruits and this has "yielded tangible results for key roles".

Even so, Walker says, highly sought-after candidates will receive multiple offers.

The most significant shift in the engineering recruitment market is the return of Kiwi engineers from Australia and further afield, in response to the economic slowdown in other countries, says Lyon. "Returning Kiwis come from a wide variety of disciplines, particularly those relating to the mining sector, roading, rail and ports."

Beca's market intelligence suggests some have taken pay cuts in the region of between $20,000 and $30,000 to return home, says Lyon.

The Mainzeal collapse has had a short-term effect on the engineering and construction recruitment market. "We now have 400 people immediately available for work," says Robinson. But Mainzeal's projects need to be completed and many of the staff have already found themselves jobs.

"I get the impression [the collapse] wasn't because there was no work. It was more about management and contracts that weren't making money," says Robinson.

He doesn't believe the collapse has brought on an employers' market. "I don't believe [jobseekers] are going to have to sit at home trying to get work [or] compromise too much in terms of salary expectations."

Robinson expects to see more signs of improvement later in the year in both the Auckland and Christchurch markets for construction and engineering jobs.

He says there has been a lot of demand from abroad for New Zealand jobs in the engineering and construction field, especially from Britain and Ireland.

Sought-after staff
Construction: Residential Project Managers, Civil Foreperson, Civil Site/Project Engineers, Intermediate Quantity Surveyors, Civil Project Managers (subdivision experience), Civil Supervisors (directional drilling experience) and Machine Operators (directional drilling or UFB experience).

Engineering: Geotechnical Engineers, Civil Engineers, Transportation Engineers, Civil Infrastructure Design Engineers, Water Engineers, Land Development Engineers, Structural Engineers, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers and Building Services, 12D and Civil 3D Design Engineers.

-Hays

- NZ Herald

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