Half of all New Zealand employers are struggling to find staff with the right skills, with engineers most in demand, a survey has found.
The Canterbury rebuild and major infrastructure projects in Auckland were driving the demand for qualified engineers.
The next toughest vacancies to fill were sales representatives, then IT staff.
More than 650 employers were surveyed by ManpowerGroup New Zealand for the eighth annual talent shortage report, which found 51 per cent of employers struggling to fill roles.
That was up from 48 per cent last year and 44 per cent in 2011.
ManpowerGroup Australia and New Zealand managing director Lincoln Crawley said the figures reflected a 'talent mismatch' between skills available and those needed by employers.
Mr Crawley said the Canterbury earthquake rebuild was a major driver for the demand for engineers, along with infrastructure projects in Auckland.
The slow start for many re-build projects had resulted in a drop-off in interest from qualified workers elsewhere in New Zealand and overseas, he said.
"Brand Canterbury as it relates to the rebuild has suffered a bit because of this false start."
Canterbury was already starting to see wage inflation as a result of high demand for workers.
Skilled tradespeople were the fourth-most in demand, which was also driven by the Canterbury rebuild, he said.
Mr Crawley said in the short-term those vacancies were going to have to be filled by overseas workers, which wasn't a good long-term solution for New Zealand.
"That puts all sorts of social pressures on when you've got a high unemployment rate, and citizens become very parochial about any migration coming in."
Shortage in sales representatives related to employers across a range of industries, he said. There wasn't a lack of people willing to work in sales, but employers were struggling to find the skills and experience they were looking for.
IT workers were third on the list, up from fourth last year.
Mr Crawley said New Zealand companies were winning IT contracts overseas because wages were more competitive and companies were providing innovative solutions, which was providing more local jobs.
"The key is to ensure the industry is aligning with education to ensure we've got the right people with the right skills," he said.
Mr Crawley said there had also been a drop-off in employers investing in upskilling and cross-training staff, and companies needed to take a long-term approach to tackling staff shortages.
Companies should also think creatively at how they could tap into under-utilised sectors of the workforce, such as mature workers and women returning to work.
Jobs most in demand in 2013 in New Zealand:
2. Sales Representatives
3. IT Staff
4. Skilled Trades
5. Management / Executive (Management/Corporate)
7. Accounting & Finance Staff
8. Customer Service Representatives & Customer Support
9. Machinist/Machine Operators