Matthew Theunissen is a business reporter

Construction industry crying out for skilled workers, says Hawkins boss Geoff Hunt

Hawkins boss Geoff Hunt says there simply were not enough construction workers in the country. Photo / Dean Purcell
Hawkins boss Geoff Hunt says there simply were not enough construction workers in the country. Photo / Dean Purcell

The construction industry is suffering due to a lack of skilled workers, a major construction company boss says.

It was announced earlier this week that the country's rate of unemployment has fallen to 4.9 per cent - the lowest it's been since 2008.

Hawkins Group chief executive Geoff Hunt said that while this is positive result, the construction industry is short on staff in every category - and it's not being talked about.

"The industry is short of people in all skill categories - we're short of truck drivers, plant operators, project managers, site engineers, etcetera, etcetera, right across the range."

And the numbers are large, he said. According a paper on future demand for construction workers, released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) earlier this year, demand for construction-related occupations across the country is projected to increase by 10 per cent between 2015 and 2021 - about 49,000 employees.

Hunt said this demand could not be met by training alone, and it was essential for skilled migrants to fill the positions.

He said offering more money for vacant positions was not the answer as there simply were not enough construction workers in the country.

"In order to make sure we meet the construction sector demand we are going to have to bring in people from offshore. We can't train our way out of it and we will need to continue to use immigration to fill skill-gaps to meet all the work we have coming up."

He urged the Government not to make it any more difficult for skilled migrants to come to New Zealand, following its tightening of the immigration points system last month.

According to the July 2016 MBIE report, Auckland has the largest construction workforce requirements in New Zealand, needing just under 185,000 construction-related employees by 2021. Waikato and Bay of Plenty construction-related employment demand is set to increase by 9 per cent by 2021, and 10 per cent in Wellington. In Canterbury, demand for construction workers is forecast to steadily decline from this year.

- NZ Herald

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