Misconceptions about Hamilton and a lack of publicity around IT careers in the Waikato region are making it difficult for Rob Heebink to hire skilled people for his team.
Heebink is the general manager of research and development at Gallagher Group, an agricultural company based in Hamilton which is best known for manufacturing electric fences and animal management products.
Gallagher employs 710 staff and last year turned over $175 million in revenue, according to the TIN100 report for 2011.
The group also develops security and safety systems including digital video surveillance, site access control, and human resource databases that are used across a range of industries including the mining sector.
The safety and security division now makes up around 40 percent of the company’s revenue.
Heebink’s research team consists of some 105 staff, of which 65 are IT workers working on a range of IT projects from software development to networks.
Heebink says Gallagher plans on hiring a further eight to ten IT workers over the next year, but it is not the only technology company in the region to be hiring.
“I know a lot of the people and companies here, and there is a lot of growth in the technology sector in the Waikato,” says Heebink.
“The growth in New Zealand’s agriculture and primary sectors is creating a need for more IT workers to support it, and Waikato is at the heart of it.”
Heebink says he needs project managers, technical architects and developers to help support the company’s further expansion into software based products. But finding specialists, especially those with .NET skills is difficult.
“It’s tough getting the right people with the right skillsets. Generic skills are easy to find in the region, but getting people with specialist skills is very difficult,” says Heebink.
He says there will be more opportunities in the sector as agriculture companies and farmers integrate their systems with the National Animal Identification Tracing project (NAIT).
Heebink says there is not enough awareness outside of the Waikato about the jobs available in the region, which gives the impression that there is not much of a technology scene in the region.
“There’s not enough communication about the IT jobs in Hamilton. People are reluctant to uproot themselves and move here because they don’t know if there will be another job in the area if they decide to move on,” says Heebink.
“Sure it’s not exactly like bustling Auckland, but I think once people move here they really appreciate the improvement in lifestyle.”
The increase in demand has seen the region become an attractive opportunity for IT recruitment firm AbsoluteIT.
Earlier this year AbsoluteIT opened its first office in Hamilton. The branch looks after candidates and employers in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty.
Martin Barry, northern region manager for AbsoluteIT says the Waikato region is being affected by a major boom in New Zealand’s tech industry, which is being driven by the primary sector.
“The region is seeing a lot of growth, mainly from agriculture and farming. A lot of those companies are looking at IT as a way to increase profit and competitiveness, and are investing in the right staff to get those results” says Barry.
Barry says the region has much the same skills shortages and needs as the rest of the country, and does not expect to see this change in the near future.
“It’s still a lot of the usual stuff they’re looking for. Business intelligence, project managers, great developers, people with Microsoft development experience,” says Barry.
Barry says a major deciding factor for many people moving to the region to work is in order to raise families, and live a lifestyle that is difficult to find in the major centres.
“There’s a whole different lifestyle this side of the Bombays. It’s quieter and definitely no hour-long traffic jams to put up with in the mornings.”