Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Builders likely to benefit

Construction workers are in line for generous pay rises this year as the skills shortage starts to pinch.

Builder's apprentice Mark Harris switched from unsociable hours as a chef. He sees a better future with a hammer and nails. Photo / Doug Sherring
Builder's apprentice Mark Harris switched from unsociable hours as a chef. He sees a better future with a hammer and nails. Photo / Doug Sherring

Pull on those boots, clip on that toolbelt, and stick out your hand.

A leading recruitment boss has identified construction workers as most likely to receive a pay rise from their boss this year.

Recruitment consultancy Robert Walters released its annual global salary survey this month, predicting permanent salaries will rise by 3.58 per cent overall in New Zealand this year.

Those working in areas with skills shortages are most likely to get more in the back pocket this year - and top of that list are those working in construction.

Shortages of builders, engineers and some tradespeople would start to bite this year, Robert Walters' Wellington director Sean Brunner said.

"It's because of what will become a construction boom with Christchurch, earthquake strengthening around the country and leaky homes.

"If Australia continues to flatten out, we'll probably see more [construction workers] coming across from there.

And, more coming from the UK and Ireland."

Dollar signs would also be flashing in the eyes of those whose jobs revolved around saving companies money - especially change managers who led restructures.

Policy analysts were also in short supply in Wellington, while the pace of digital technological change would fuel demand for those skilled in IT, Brunner said.

"It all just relates back to supply and demand of top calibre people ... the best thing you can do in any job is do a great job and then put your hand up.

"If you're not performing in whatever you're doing it's unlikely there's going to be any sort of pay increase."

Brunner said many large employers had been flat on salaries for the past four or five years. "There's gotta be some give on that."

Not everyone was in line for a 3.5 per cent-plus payrise, Brunner said. "The only way it's going to move is through increased demand and more opportunities for people; that would naturally stimulate hourly rates and salaries.

"Because unemployment is still quite high and the market still hasn't been what we'd describe as buoyant, that has led to smaller, more measured increases over the past few years.

"I don't see that changing over the short term."

Those least likely to see their fortunes rise were those in jobs with plenty of talent available, such as administrative and middle-management positions, Brunner said.

NZ Council of Trade Unions economist and director of policy Bill Rosenberg said it was "disturbing" those leading restructures could be in demand from employers.

"When you are just coming out of a recession and there's increasing growth, you think some of this restructuring would be over and companies would be looking to grow."

Change is giving him a happier life

Mark Harris is building himself a better future. The 38-year-old spent much of his working life as a chef, earning up to $35 an hour, before a change in career two years ago. The switch from fully qualified chef to apprentice builder slashed his income by more than a third.

It hasn't been easy, but Harris says he has no regrets. His hours are more sociable, and he is learning skills that will help both him and those he cares about.

"For me, it's never about having the luxury lifestyle, but being comfortable. I'm not totally comfortable now, but ... I'm sure with a good knowledge base and a few years under my belt I should be back to where I was before."

Predictions those in the construction industry are most likely to receive pay rises this year are "great to hear", although his boss, Kevin Bruce of Absolute Building, paid him fairly, he said.

For now, Harris is concentrating on increasing his skills. His dreams and his income are growing with his experience.

Renting in Grey Lynn, Auckland, he eventually wants to buy a "doer-upper".

"I'd definitely like a project. I'd easily have a deposit if I stuck with my old job, but I'd be unhappy."

- Herald on Sunday

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