The need for skilled engineers and construction workers continues to grow in Christchurch and elsewhere in the New Zealand economy.
"Looking at the overall picture we expect a continuing substantive demand," says Andrew Cleland, IPENZ chief executive.
"Across the economy, when the private sector starts to spend money that tends to flow through to engineering work. That's starting to happen. We are starting to see land development happening again. Canterbury is going to be designing new structures and a lot of engineering is about doing assessments of low-strength buildings all around the country."
He says there has been little change in the overall needs for engineering skills during the past one to two years with essentially geotechnical work required in Christchurch for specific foundation designs in some parts of the city - work that will continue for several years. Demand in Christchurch will rise sharply when the large anchor projects come on stream.
The need for competent and experienced engineers is probably competing to some extent against the northern part of New Zealand where there has been more land development, Cleland says. In Christchurch, and elsewhere, experienced structural engineers are in high demand to carry out assessments of the existing earthquake-prone building stock.
"We are still in significant shortage and the issue there is we need people with competence in earthquake engineering, which migrant engineers tend not to have," Cleland says.
Migrant engineers hail predominantly from Ireland and the United Kingdom, some from South Africa and Australia.
"They have their work checked and signed off by others and gradually build up their skills over a period of time," he says.
New Zealand is part of international agreements that set benchmark standards for engineering knowledge. "From there it is how you apply that knowledge and the types of engineering problems you apply that to. In earthquake engineering, we have very specific New Zealand knowledge."
He notes a significant shortfall in engineering technologists and technicians who complete two- and three-year qualifications.
"There is a major programme trying to boost those numbers. That is not so much in Christchurch but is targeted towards the economy generally, particularly in small to medium enterprises (SMEs)."
SMEs that perhaps started from a family business with a less qualified workforce, and are now turning over up to $3 million a year are, he says, more likely to employ a technically qualified person with a practical education from an institute of technology or polytechnic (ITP) than someone with a more theoretical education from a university.
While doing post-graduate qualifications in the area of seismic engineering could be an option, Cleland says newly qualified engineers can work in the field and gain competence under the supervision of an experienced engineer.
Barry Akers, a spokesman for Fletcher Construction Building and Infrastructure in Christchurch says that the rebuild is in the low part of skills demand at this point but with more large projects coming on stream the availability of labour may become an issue over the next 12 months.
"There have been enough people coming through to date but whether there will be enough in future would be the question," Akers says.
He says greater numbers of experienced people in service trades will be required, such as plumbers, electricians and HVAC, as well as experienced steel fixers and carpenters, although there is a supply chain emerging from offshore.
The Department of Labour also lists a need for: building control officer (building inspector), building surveyor, construction site manager, foreman, land surveyor, project manager, quantity surveyor, scaffolder (advanced), survey technician and urban planner.
Large projects include the recently announced Christchurch Justice and Emergency Services Precinct, which will be the largest multi-agency Government project in New Zealand's history. Construction is scheduled to begin this year.
Akers said the institutes of technology have increased their offering in conjunction with industry and Fletcher has also taken on additional apprentices and cadets.
"We are working with a range of local and international agencies (both Fletcher Building and external) and fostering partnerships with smaller building contractors."
The construction labour force is also boosted by workers from overseas. Akers says sentiment that they are taking work away from locals has abated. "[People] just want to see the work done."