A new free service has been launched by a Warkworth businessman to help close the gap on New Zealand's skills shortages.
As pressure starts to build for people to work on reconstructing Christchurch, Geoff Taylor has revamped the recruitment and immigration business he has been running for 21 years to help employers connect with job hunters from the UK.
"Since starting the business in 1992 I think we have helped around 12,000 people move to New Zealand," says Taylor.
The business, Skilled British Workers, used to be based on charging clients a fee to find them a job in New Zealand. But Taylor says that business model is broken. However, his firm's visa business is going strong thanks to the number of people wanting to live here.
"Immigration to New Zealand is now job-led, with immigration officers preferring to see people with a job to go to - particularly one that's listed on the government's skills shortage list," he says.
"Our main activity is in the UK, because that is where the Brits are. We do all the visa work over there."
Taylor's revamped business and website is helping job hunters and employers connect for free. One part of the site allows employers to list as many jobs as they want without charge. On the other side, job hunters can list their CVs and job hunting requirements - also for free.
"We are now opening up our database of more than 20,000 UK-based job hunters to employers," says Taylor.
"This way, the employers can decide who they think is the best person for them, knowing that people who have posted their details online are serious about moving to New Zealand.
"Employers can make direct contact with job hunters. We don't have to get involved at all. I think the new site is beneficial for employers."
Where Taylor hopes to clip the ticket is in charging employers to do background checks on potential staff, and helping to ease the path for job hunters in obtaining a visa.
"We just hope we will get the visa business if a job is offered," he says. "It is in the employers' interest to have the candidate turn up and legally be able to start work and not be delayed in the immigration system.
"The employer will want to know that the applicant it is looking at is credible and eligible. So we hope employers will want us to perform these checks on their behalf. Employers will want to know how serious a person is before committing too much time to them."
Taylor's firm has offices in New Zealand and Britain, and says February is one of the busiest times of the year for international job searches online.
Another firm that's looking to help close the skills gap in Christchurch is Auckland's iPlacements.
"Christchurch needs more than 30,000 skilled workers for its rebuild," says iPlacements Paul Janssen. "New Zealand is not in a position to provide that many people.
"In the minds of employers, migrants are always going to be second in line to local job candidates, but the reality is that's where people with jobs to fill are going to have to focus their efforts." Janssen blames "successive New Zealand governments" for ignoring the looming skills shortage.
"It has been worsened by the earthquake damage," he says.
"You can't just dial up an engineer, a foreman or a commercial law specialist, and expect them to turn up tomorrow."
Janssen says the Garden City's personnel requirements, combined with the graduate brain drain and ditch-jumping, is putting a strain on New Zealand's labour market.
"The good news is New Zealand has always been a popular destination for migrants. The gloomy Christchurch cloud has a potential silver lining as long as we can get qualified, English-speaking people who can be easily assimilated into the New Zealand way of life," he says.
"Most employers are either unfamiliar with the immigration process or simply not planning ahead enough - which can lead to frustrations for all parties."
Janssen recommends employers work with skilled and qualified immigration consultants who can help them avoid "most, if not all issues".
"We physically go to the source and look at whether or not the candidate has the right skills, the right attitude and is going to provide the employer with an asset, rather than a liability," says Janssen.
Like Taylor, Janssen says his firm has more than 20,000 job seekers looking for employment.By Steve Hart Email Steve