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New immigration rules: new challenges, new opportunities

New immigration rules mean new challenges for employers, writes Guy Davidson.

New Zealand’s economic buoyancy presents a unique challenge and conundrum for New Zealand businesses and employers, this being a significant and long term skills shortage. Not necessarily making life easier is the government’s recent changes to the immigration rules, announced in mid-October, meaning an increase in the points required of migrants before they or their families can gain residence here.

This is part of a broader government effort to reduce residency applications by 5 percent and to sharpen the focus of annual intakes towards more highly skilled candidates in the areas of workforce shortages. On an international scale this means that New Zealand employers who are increasingly looking offshore for skills will have to navigate slightly tighter immigration requirements. The changes aren’t necessarily material in the number of people affected but they do send a conflicting message at a time when skills are in short supply. 

The Property and Infrastructure sector, in particular, is enjoying historically high levels of activity, requiring larger workforces. Since the global financial crisis in 2009, investment in new projects across most asset classes has been increasing year on year.

Large scale national and regional infrastructure investment, including catering for the growth of Auckland, the Christchurch rebuild, a warming Wellington market, and burgeoning provincial markets have created a very different operating environment for employers in these sectors than existed just a few years ago. Many businesses have more opportunities to grow, so that’s a positive thing right?

Capitalising on that growth opportunity is easier said than done, however. For the business sector, it requires attraction and retention of a large, skilled workforce, that is currently in short supply. In order to achieve this, two things need to happen.

Firstly, New Zealand needs to significantly increase efforts to grow our own employee talent pool. Employers’ ability to realise growth continues to be limited by their ability to hire the talent they need, and that talent is in increasingly short supply on a domestic level.

Secondly, we need to recognise that this demand growth and supply constraint is definitely not localised, nor is it narrow in its scope. Across the world, particularly in developed countries, there is a consistent clamouring for talent. In fact, skills shortage is a well-worn topic that attracts vigorous discussion all over the world.

The issue is one which applies to numerous skilled areas: chefs, civil engineers, data scientists, quantity surveyors, truck drivers, property valuers, web developers, doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, recruitment consultants and the list goes on. If this is the way of the world now, and for the future, what can employers do to alleviate this intensifying pressure?

Employers need to commit real energy to the process of identifying, attracting and hiring the best talent they can find. The talent market is highly competitive and it’s the employers who have put strategic thought in to attraction and retention who will secure, and keep, the skills their business needs to realise the growth opportunities that abound in New Zealand.

Successful recruitment needs a strong proposition to get candidates over the line. Employers need to be able to sell the pull factors that define a job opportunity in their business. You are your own shop window, dress it attractively and people will step inside.

And after all, in the words of Robert Half, founder of Robert Half International, “time spent on hiring is time well spent.”

Guy Davidson is regional director of Cobalt Recruitment.