James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

NZ struggles to recruit skilled staff

Survey shows 59% of bosses battling to fill jobs, mainly in Christchurch and Auckland

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

New Zealand ranks seventh among the top 10 countries that are having problems finding highly skilled staff, thanks largely to the Christchurch rebuild and construction and infrastructure developments in Auckland, a survey shows.

The Manpower Group talent shortage survey 2014 shows an increasing skills shortage in New Zealand, with 59 per cent of local employers saying they're struggling to fill jobs.

The figure is up from 48 per cent in 2012 and 51 per cent last year.

The survey of more than 650 Kiwi employers found engineers are the most in-demand employees followed by those in skilled trades.

Accounting and finance staff came in third, ahead of management and executive positions as the fourth most in demand.

Matt Love-Smith, general manager of Manpower Group New Zealand, said despite the country having an unemployment rate of 6 per cent, employers were battling to find highly skilled staff.

"Half of employers were finding there was a lack of available applicants, a third were saying there was a lack of experience and 16 per cent were saying there was a lack of technical competency or the hard skills," he said.

"I think that points to the number of organisations looking to employ on experience and hard skills which is clearly proving challenging."

He said the country's economic and employment growth is being fuelled by construction, infrastructure and housing developments in Auckland and Christchurch.

But Manpower's figures show that 58 per cent of respondents said the skill shortage was reducing their ability to service their clients.

A further 39 per cent highlighted a resultant fall in competitiveness and productivity, 27 per cent said it was lowering existing employee engagement and morale, while 23 per cent said it reduced their innovation and creativity.

"There's a gap between supply and demand [for highly skilled staff] and it's clear over the last three years we have seen that gap growing and the size of that gap is accelerating.

"The trend certainly doesn't seem to be one that's going away any time soon so how employers respond to that challenge is going to be critical."

Mr Love-Smith said less than half of employers (47 per cent) were taking measures to attract staff such as increasing starting salaries, providing additional training and clearer development paths. And more than 35 per cent were looking outside the locality and country and at younger and older workers.

The global survey, which looked at 41 countries, showed that talent shortage is widespread across the world. But its effect is most acute in Japan (81 per cent of employers), Peru (67 per cent), India (64 per cent) and Argentina, Brazil and Turkey (63).

Employers in Ireland (2 per cent) and Spain (3 per cent) are the least likely to face shortages.


Struggling to grow

Graham Rundle's structural engineering firm has had a 50 per cent increase in employee numbers in the past 18 months - but he says it is still short-staffed.

Mr Rundle, who is the founding principal at Redco NZ, a Tauranga consulting engineering practice, says his staff, who also have offices in Auckland and Christchurch, were finding it difficult to cope with the workload.

"There is a huge demand for structural engineers as a result of the Christchurch event, but it's not only in Christchurch," he said.

"A lot of existing building stock has to be reassessed. It's being led by government departments and corporates who are concerned for the health and safety of their staff ... but we have had cases of buildings that haven't been finished yet being called upon to have an assessment."

Mr Rundle said experienced staff were difficult to find, but the slowdown of the mining industry in Australia could be helping.

"We are noticing engineers are becoming more available out of Australia now which hasn't been the case for an awful long time."

- NZ Herald

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