Spatial experts added to Immigration's skills shortage list

Immigration New Zealand has responded favourably to an industry request to ease a shortage of geospatial knowledge

An approach to immigration authorities to help ease a perceived shortage of NZ residents with digital geospatial knowledge has succeeded. The classification "other spatial scientist" has been added to Immigration New Zealand's Long-Term Skills Shortage List (LTSSL).

This means an immigrant who has a "bachelor degree specialising in geography or computer science and a minimum of two years' relevant post-qualification work experience in GIS applications" will find it easier to qualify for a work or residence visa.

"Migrants who gain employment in one of [the listed] occupations may be granted a work visa under the LTSSL Work to Residence or Essential Skills instructions," says Immigration NZ documentation. "Migrants applying for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category may gain bonus points towards their application if they have an offer of employment, work experience or qualifications in an area of absolute skill shortage identified on the LTSSL."

The initiative to improve the supply of geospatial specialists was organised by the NZ branch of the Spatial Industries Business Association (Siba) and Land Information NZ. They see it as remedying a skills shortage that would otherwise have got worse as interest in the use of geospatial information in business grows.

"Research commissioned through Victoria University into the capability of the spatial industry in New Zealand has confirmed a skills shortage in this area," says New Zealand Geospatial Office principal analyst Geoff O'Malley.

"This is just one step towards addressing that. In the longer term we'll work with schools to raise awareness of spatial sciences as a career option, and with universities to increase the tertiary level qualifications available in this area.

"This addition to the LTSSL reflects a collaborative effort between government, academia and industry, O'Malley says. "We all support the growth of the New Zealand spatial industry and, together, have put forward a strong and successful application."

"This removes some of the barriers to improving the supply and demand position," says Siba geospatial capability lead Scott Campbell, "but it will need to be promoted" so that aspiring immigrants know geospatial skills will be well received in New Zealand.

Not everyone agrees there is a problem; comments appended -- unfortunately anonymously -- to Computerworld's story last year accused the industry association of trying to drive salaries down in the sector.

"If there's a shortage, then surely salaries should be going up as demand exceeds supply. But is it?" said one commenter. [The] solution seems to be to increase supply by getting in more immigrants instead of offering better salaries for existing staff to stop them from heading to Australia."

Others criticised the industry for an inflexible attitude to employing promising locals. "Unless you've worked in the sector before they don't want to know you," said one "Skills are transferable. People can learn the 5,10 or 20 percent of the job that relates specifically to your industry very quickly."

"If you want a person with precisely the right tick boxes you won't find them," another commented. "But having been in IT for 30 years, [I think] anyone who has an engineering, or math background can do this GIS stuff.

"It does require a different mindset of the HR department and some knowledge [on the part of] the development manager," the latter commenter added.

Campbell says he was "surprised and dismayed" to see these comments. With increasing demand, he does not see any danger of a glut of geospatial experts on the market depressing pay rates, he says. Sectors such as retail, logistics, marketing and finance are seeing the advantage of adding a geospatial aspect to their ICT and even with the addition of new immigrants, this demand will barely be able to be satisfied.

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If you will please review the personnel mix at several new zealand gis organisations and ask why are those companies importing from uk, usa, ireland, africa, sweden, germany?? on the other hand it is because it takes more than 10 years to become a proficient technical lead in the gis. so go back to school and get an engineers degree. don't come complaining, go overseas and get some experience of how the world goes around. employers pay for it based skills in server development, database, ICT infrastructure, configuration, windows server, there are only a few lowly paid roles here for map analysts that universities social studies departments let out year after year. These small map roles are which are open to low paid new graduate roles that are faced with a long battle discovering that all they have learnt is not going to pay back their student loan. how will a social geography gis graduate become a technical consultant or infrastructure architect? not a possible, they are being setup for a market that doesn't pay, universities must put gis in their it department, not in their geography department. look at the workplace, is gis departments in the human resources department? no it is mostly in the it department. 45,000$ salary after 45,000$ spent on five years for a master's certificate at university? no. these types of roles top out at 75,000$ for senior analysts after twenty years of practice. the ones making the gis for a living? technical server developers and architects >100 = it computer science, developers 100,000 = computer science. gis is the added value for them. gis managers you can see them as the ones with social degrees and can't explain rest. universities do not teach server skills within their course selections, instead they give statistics, analysis and theory perspectives of the 18th century. look at this site and ask, where is the gis server or internet but if my grammar is not quite so, then sorry as it is not my native language. someone will surely make a posting about if foreigners don't like it, go home, zenophobes and racists.



From a Project Management perspective - Most large GeoSpatial Development Projects in New Zealand are not possible without the support of highly skilled GIS Developers that have come from all over the world to settle here, these are the people we should attract, support and encourage.

The market for highly skilled GeoSpatial professionals in New Zealand is very very competitive, if you can deploy an ArcGIS Server based solution, you could pretty much write your own ticket. Sometimes clients will wait 2-3 months before sufficient high tech people are available for project work.

We need more GIS developers, solution architects, and experienced technical consultants. They do not compete with Kiwis, but mentor and bring up the overall skill level.

Salaries, like most other sectors is an issue. Largely why I worked overseas for a few years, but we all come back eventually.

It is often very difficult to find good developers that have a good client attitude and a sound understanding of GeoSpatial technologies.

This is good news for New Zealand and our economy. Well done SIBA, and well done Scott.



From what I can see its the "box thinkers" idea of what GIS skills are in demand. What the industry needs is expert engineers/scientists/modellers and developers not your Joe Blow graduate from Victoria University. In other words analytical thinkers with a wide skill base such as surveying, hydrology, geology, mathematical modelling, programming, databases, economics, web development, biology, physics, episteimology etc. not some chump who can make a map!
Moreover immigration is just one small component that will fail without the investment needed in the industry.



I've seen this all before. Teachers, meteorologists, programmers entering New Zealand as skilled labour only to get here, find their skills are not up to par and instead they sign up for a student allowance, family support and an interest free student loan while they work on something else.



Yes there is a need for skilled GIS Administrators (Server/Database)and Developers. They typically will have a IT/Computer Science background.

There is also a need for the skilled GIS Power User (map maker) who can take the GIS tools (typically using desktop tools) and produce insightful information and products (live or static). They also provide the content to the enterprise system (implemented + supproted by the GIS Admin staff). This provides key information to wider enterprise and external users.

So in short yes GIS Admin skills are needed (typically with IS/IT background) and Yes skilled GIS power users (map makers) are also needed.



There is not shortage on skilled people, there is a shortage of effort to give entry level people an opportunity to build experience. I am from overseas and I have got residence under shortage skilled list as DBA, I had the experience, I have never been on benefit.
I did my degree in Brazil, in the 4th year of the course I had to work 5 days @ 8 hours for one year, plus studying from 19:00-22:30hrs. It was hard, I could have done the work over 2 years as part time job in parallel with Uni. I got paid just about nothing for my job and had to pay for this course at uni, but when I finished my degree I had one year experience and the job that I managed to keep. If in NZ universities take this approach of having a relevant work experience for equivalent 1 year of full time work there would not be such a thing a unexperienced skilled people. Even if all you have to do is to write Software User Guide in the job, you will still learn something and most people are happy to employ people to do the boring tasks for closed to nothing. Or do you like updating diagrams and docs?
It is not up to government to give opportunity is up to the university to make sure the student gets the degree ready for market and the market in NZ requires experience, so be it.
I am not a DBA anymore, I am now Business Analyst, but it was so short on skilled people that I had to apply for over 200 jobs in order to get my work. I have a kiwi child, going back to Brazil wasn't a choice otherwise I would have done as there is more opportunity than here. There is no jobs around, or kiwis don't like my name, because my first interview I have got the job, but it took over 200 job application to get an interview.If there was shortage I would have got interview in each one.



As GIS moves mainstream and the true enterprise SI's and application developers continue to dominate this space, GIS players are less and less relevant. Perhaps there is a need for authoritative GIS data but so many GIS players are down sizing - Eagle has no GIS services any more (relying on partners), Critchlow is shedding people faster than you can blink and others are reportedly struggling. Only e-Spatial seem to be doing well, and that is perhaps because they have crossed the GIS/IT/business divide. The issue with GIS in NZ is that it is dull, boring and run by too many people who seem to have big chips on little shoulders. As such they hardly inspire people to join the sector.



Our workplace advertised for GIS desktop mapmakers. Out of 42 Applicants, none were suitable for interview, 2 said they had used ArcGIS, and none of them demonstrated it within their resume. It resulted in us using recruiters and their fees to find people, and by that stage we were desperate enough to have to pay it.

We have had nothing but good support and service from Eagle Technology and most of them are from other countries as well.

Tony Elson


I've forgotten how to make a map!!!

riz lee


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