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New Zealand’s construction boom means big demand for talent
01 February 2018
New Zealand’s construction industry boom means companies have the chance to take on more work than ever before, but for some, there is an issue in being able to get the right staff members to take on projects and deliver high-quality work.
According to a recent Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) report, construction investment growth is set to peak in 2020 and will increase requirements for construction-related occupations until at least the end of 2022. Employers are facing an increasing skills shortage and having to alter the ways they recruit and retain the best staff.
Overall construction staff demand in New Zealand is set to increase 11 percent by 2022, to require around 56,000 new employees. Approximately half of that demand will centre around Auckland’s construction industry.
The only region not likely to experience increased demand is Canterbury, where the ongoing earthquake rebuilding requirements already command significant construction resources but are set to tail off from 2021.
Occupations facing the largest demand around the country include plumbers, electricians and civil engineering professionals. Auckland, in particular, will also see growth in requirements for project builders, carpenters and joiners.
Every area of construction is now in what we consider a skills shortage. From labourers to carpenters, plumbers to electricians, site supervisors to quantity surveyors, project managers and engineers, every skill set is difficult to find staff for.
Global recruitment drive encouraging migration
Despite government initiatives to encourage construction apprenticeships, and record numbers of current apprentices, many more people will still be needed to meet the growing demand.
The government’s immigration website lists construction, engineering and trades skills in both immediate and long-term demand, and there is an active campaign underway utilising both industry and government resources to seek and place workers from other countries.
Michael Page is putting its global network to use, connecting with counterparts abroad to attract qualified candidates, and assisting those people to navigate the recruitment and relocation process.
We look to Australia, because it’s fairly close geographically and lifestyle-wise, and has a similar way of building, but we also work to attract people from South Africa, the UK and the United States.
For a lot of companies, their first choice will be a Kiwi employee, because they’ll have local networks with an understanding of the contractors and suppliers for the project, and also an understanding of New Zealand building regulations. It’s not always an option with current staff shortages, though. Timelines and projects are so tight that businesses need someone to hit the ground running, and in order for a company to continue servicing its clients, they might need to start considering people from abroad.
When targeting recruits from overseas, we look to skill sets which may not be in great demand in a candidate’s home country, but which New Zealand has a large market for. It’s about finding a balance of opportunities to sell a candidate the benefits of moving to New Zealand, both for career but also their lifestyle.
Unprecedented career progression opportunities
An increasing demand for projects in the construction industry means experienced, senior level staff are highly prized, however, it’s also great news for eager recruits at the less experienced end of the spectrum.
Many people at the junior or intermediate level within construction are having their careers progress at a much quicker speed or pace than they ever have done in the past. They’re in a position where they’re taking on a lot more responsibility earlier on.
The expectations placed on these candidates can be very high, though, because this accelerated progression means they don’t have the years of on-the-job experience and confidence their employers or peers expect.
We’re seeing a lot more juniors and intermediates take on roles where historically, someone with 20 years of experience may be running things.
Internal battles within companies can occur too, where there might be someone with 20 years of experience in a business, who’s now at exactly the same level as someone with five to ten years.
Staff retention key issue for employers
More job opportunities mean it’s not uncommon for staff to be enticed elsewhere. Thanks to this trend, retention should be one of the biggest focuses any construction employer has at the moment.
People are moving much more frequently than they have done in the past, and employers are looking to attract people from other businesses who are already trained up in a similar method of construction.
The situation is difficult for businesses who may not be able to offer the highest salaries or the most exciting projects, because bigger companies will be able to just pick up the phone and offer all sorts of benefits to desirable workers.
While the immediate benefits of changing jobs may be enticing for candidates, it’s wise to consider longer-term career plans. When the market does slow down, people who move around a lot may find they’ve hit a ceiling and struggle to find comparable roles to someone who might have stayed in their previous job for five or 10 years.
Employers looking to retain staff should consider boosting salary packages by way of adding things like health care, gym memberships or even something as simple as paying staff overtime when they work on weekends. That’s the sort of benefit which can make a really big difference to individuals who are expected to work out of regular hours.
Companies taking care of staff
Offering incentives to employees isn’t new, however, some employers are also working hard at addressing job satisfaction and the work-life balance of their staff, using this to retain their best people.
We’re seeing more companies focused on making sure staff aren’t working more than 40 to 45 hours a week, and being tuned in around not just completing a job, but around mental health. These businesses know if their staff do too many hours for too long, they’ll burn out and eventually leave.
Social networks and building relationships between staff is another factor in having a workplace people want to remain at. Getting the chance to have drinks on a Friday, or to spend time socially with their team is a bigger focus. People feel more valued when they get to experience some recreational enjoyment to combat the effort they’re putting in.
Transport times, particularly in Auckland where workers may be commuting for hours each day, are also an area companies are working to address. Some businesses go as far as only working on projects where they know they have staff living in the area.
Flexibility and happy staff key to success
The workforce demand in construction isn’t slowing anytime soon. More recruitment from within New Zealand and abroad means employers need to remain flexible when seeking new staff, and commit to providing the most appealing workplaces they can.
Companies who look to minimise staff turnover and add value to employment offerings will be best placed to grow and succeed in the current market, and those with happy staff will naturally draw other good recruits to their business.
High staff retention is a big sell for new people joining the business because they trust it’ll be a company they can work at for a long time to come.
Need some help finding quality talent within construction? Contact one of our experienced consultants today.