London calling good Kiwi tradies

By Gill South

Two men who own a recruitment firm for the construction industry can't get enough of our workers, writes Gill South.

The high-spec jobs Kiwis often work on in Britain give them invaluable experience. Photo / Sarah Ivey
The high-spec jobs Kiwis often work on in Britain give them invaluable experience. Photo / Sarah Ivey

A Kiwi-owned construction agency based in London says New Zealand tradespeople are always welcome in Britain and should ignore reports that the city doesn't have work.

"Skilled New Zealand trades-people are staying away due to the perception that there is a lack of jobs in the UK and Europe, particularly in construction, because of the headline figures that we're in a double-dip recession," says Marc Cullinane, co-owner of Construct Recruitment.

Home Office figures show the number of New Zealand citizens entering Britain for work has dropped by over 40 per cent since 2007. "Across the UK, construction is suffering but the safe haven of London is booming, thanks to strong interest from wealthy overseas buyers as the eurozone crisis continues," he says.

"London is a hub for the world's billionaires, particularly for Russians and Arabs, and it's not uncommon for us to fit kitchens ranging from £150,000 ($295,000) to £250,000."

House prices in London have hugely outperformed other regions, says Cullinane.

Throughout the bad financial times London has managed to retain its exclusivity and as well as attracting high-end residential projects it is still a hub for five-star hotels, designer stores and commercial head offices.

Construct Recruitment is looking for skilled tradespeople including carpenters and joiners, bricklayers, plasterers and decorators. Cullinane says New Zealanders' skills are very transferable to the UK market - British construction companies value their technical ability, the Kiwi work ethic and their camaraderie.

"NZ tradespeople are also well regarded for going through the rigorous trade qualification process, their adaptable and positive attitude and for their ability to read plans."

"We also have an influx of Eastern Europeans and they do have a great attitude to work but lack the same technical training that we know Kiwis have," says Cullinane.

Projects driving work at the moment are office refurbishments and some lucrative residential properties.

"These are high-spec residential projects and commercial fit-outs, including five-star hotels and massive flagship retail stores in London's West End as well as large shopping centres like Westfields." Most of the work is in London but when the agency has work offers outside London, or abroad, Kiwis will jump at the opportunity to see more of the world, says Cullinane. "Most of the New Zealanders we have on our books work to fund their travels around Europe so chances like these are considered a 'win-win', whereas locals see it as more of an inconvenience."

Most work is contract-based, which suits New Zealanders wanting to travel. "For trade-qualified Kiwis, the average contract is around three months for one client and we tend to have another lined up for them as soon as they approach the end."

Cullinane recommends New Zealanders start the ball rolling with a UK agency while still at home. "There's no need to bring all your tools over. As we've always got tradespeople going home we can help you pick up a decent set of tools when you get here."

"Most Kiwis are with us for two to four years and return back to NZ as broader people.

"They've seen more of the world and also had an opportunity to broaden their construction knowledge on some higher-spec projects than they would back home."

- NZ Herald

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