Auckland in need of construction workers

New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, is facing a huge construction worker shortage, leading to some groups calling for easier access to foreign workers.

While approximately 17,500 people found building work in New Zealand last year, predominately in Auckland, a building boom means that the city is still facing a severe labour shortage.

“I think a number of companies are looking at how they can get workers from overseas who have particular skills that are not available in New Zealand at the moment,” said Bruce Kohn, Chief Executive of the Building Industry Federation. “Some are related to new products coming to market, others are for traditional jobs.”

Kohn believes, as many other construction-based experts in Auckland do, that the government should consider an immigration policy change for the city, similar perhaps to one in the Canterbury region which has allowed employers there easier access to overseas staff during the rebuild.

Michael Barnett from Auckland’s Chamber of Commerce said that his organisation has already been attending job fairs in the UK and Australia in a bid to attract more construction workers to New Zealand.

“We need to be realistic,” Barnett said. “We’re not going to get the volume of talent and skills that Auckland needs for some of these major projects from the New Zealand market so we need to have an immigration policy that’s going to be flexible enough and smart enough to let the right people in.”

However, while Barnett is more than open to the prospect of increased immigration for construction workers, he also explained that more needs to be done on training young New Zealanders to have the required skills.

“It’s just really a matter of confirming that immigration is the short term answer but long term the universities need to have a better understanding of the projects that are coming forward, the construction that might be taking place over the next five to ten years,” Barnett stated. “And then they can use that as a part of building their own curriculums.”

Article by David Fuller