John Weekes

John Weekes is an NZME. News Service reporter based in Wellington.

Wanted: willing workers

Bosses say finding staff is a struggle due to dysfunctional training systems.

Catherine Lee at Raymond Salon De Coiffure in Parnell. Photo / Kellie Blizard
Catherine Lee at Raymond Salon De Coiffure in Parnell. Photo / Kellie Blizard

Want a job? You've more chance in hairdressing or panel beating, according to leaders in those industries.

New Zealand gained 1500 more skilled workers than it lost last year, but acute shortages still exist in some trades.

Some deficits are an aftershock of the Christchurch quakes, others due to the brain drain. But some bosses at hair salons and panel beaters say young people's lack of focus and a dysfunctional training system are as much to blame.

Panel beating and hairdressing leaders want their trades added to lists of those likely to suffer skill shortages which the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is reviewing. The ministry says it believes neither of those two industries have shortages. But there are others likely to be culled off current staff shortage lists, and the chance others might be added, and the changes could have impacts on immigration weightings.

At Parnell salon Raymond Salon de Coiffure, owner Raymond Henderson agreed with a suggestion hairdressers be added to the list of skilled shortages. He said finding staff was a struggle.

"Apprenticeships are not in vogue. There is a shortage of qualified people. There are lots of people going into the industry, but they're not actually completing [training]."

His employee, hairdresser Catherine Lee, 23, said less than a third who studied with her still worked in the industry.

"A lot of people think that hairdressing is going to be easy."

Jules Shoosh at Shoosh Hairdressers in Grey Lynn said an outmoded, costly qualification system demanded trainees learn styles few customers wanted any more, like perms.

"I have to train them how I want them to be.

But I also have to give them skills to be able to pass their national certificate - which is cap highlights. I mean, what sort of barbaric, antiquated method is cap highlights?" Cap highlighting is done by pulling strands of hair through a plastic cap for dyeing or bleaching.

Shoosh said training schools needed new entry tests to stop unsuitable kids taking on costly courses.

But Shoosh, Henderson and Lee all said opening doors to skilled migrants would make little difference, because local techniques were needed to work in salons here.

At CRS Panel and Paint in Newmarket, managing director George Ervine said his trade was struggling to find young recruits.

"It's a reasonably dirty industry and [employees] don't like getting dirty."

He said it could take five years or more to become a good New Zealand panel beater, but young people often lacked patience.

At the CRS workshop, 30 year-old Phil Addy has been in the trade half his life. He also said there was little new blood in the trade. "I have noticed a shortage of young people, even people my age."

The ministry sent its draft list to industry groups in the past fortnight, seeking feedback by July 20.

Most projected skills shortages are in jobs for the Christchurch rebuild. One of the occupations where a skill shortage appears to have been averted is truck driving, which the ministry is recommending comes off the immediate skill shortage risk list.

In the English city of Leeds yesterday, thousands poured through a jobs expo, looking at options in New Zealand.

The Opportunities Overseas Expo offered the chance to talk with immigration consultants and real estate agents to assist with everything from setting up a New Zealand bank account, transfer money - and transfering pensions.

Spencer Hawkes, UK general manager of the event, said job prospects down under remained strong as Britain's unemployment rate hit 8.1 per cent.

* This story has been corrected from the original version that appeared in the print edition of the Herald on Sunday.

Herald on Sunday correction:

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is not recommending hairdressing and panel beating be included on official lists, nor made a recommendation on drainlayers, fibrous plasterers, metal fabricators and crane, hose or lift operators. Also the ministry does not want engineering or mechanics added to skill shortage lists and proposes to remove truck drivers from current staff shortage lists.

Final decisions will be made in December. We apologise for the errors.

- Herald on Sunday

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