Ten new-comers make pilgrimage to CeBIT

Recruitment firm Hudson will fish for ICT talent

For the fourth year running, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has rounded up a number of organisations and shipped them off to Germany’s enormous IT fair, CeBIT, to spread the word about living and working in New Zealand.

Of the 16 companies that are attending the exhibition, ten are going for the first time. Two of the first-timers are Christchurch-based Aranz Scanning, a developer of 3D scanning and modelling technologies, and Auckland software developer Starsoft.

Aranz Scanning spun out of Applied Research Associates NZ (ARANZ) five years ago. One of the founders of the parent company, Brent Price, took over the scanning division. The 3D scanning market is a very niche one, but with a broad range of applications, says Price.

Initially, the biggest market for the company was animation and graphics. The products were used extensively in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, says Price. “From there we sold scanners to a lot of the bigger production houses,” he says.

Today, most of the company’s customers are in the medical field. In a partnership with Hanger, a large US prosthetics and orthotics provider, Aranz Scanning developed a full workflow solution for the manufacturing of custom prosthetics and orthotics (involving devices which support or correct human function). The Hanger Insignia system includes a modified hand-held laser scanner and tailored software, says Price. The company has so far sold over 500 scanners to the US company.

The benefit of using the scanner is that the patient does not have to be covered in plaster; the surface concerned can simply be scanned and an electronic file created. The clinic processes the file and sends it to a fabrication plant, instead of making and sending a plaster cast, says Price. “On a busy day, Hanger can process 200 prosthetics,” he says.

Another customer is the Smithsonian Institution, which uses the scanners for archaeological purposes. Other applications are reverse engineering and visualising mineralisation patterns in the mining industry.

Going to CeBIT, in Hanover, is a bit of “fishing trip” for the company, says Price. “We are going there to show our product and gain a better understanding of the European markets.”

Aranz Scanning has six assembly staff and five R&D staff.

Starsoft, founded in 1987, is a Microsoft shop focused on developing custom software. The company has just launched a task and work scheduling application that plugs into Microsoft Outlook 2007 and 2003, says director Dermott Renner. The new Windows application, Ezidoesit, will be officially launched in Europe at CeBIT, and the company hopes exhibiting at the fair will help push sales into the European market, he says.

Starsoft expects to meet a lot of end-users at the fair, but also to make connections with potential distributors and resellers in Europe. When Computerworld talked to Renner, he was in transit on his way to London, where the company opened an office in January.

Recruitment firm Hudson is attending CeBIT for the second year. “This year, we have been much more proactive in getting the message out to our target audience that we are at CeBIT primarily to promote ICT careers in New Zealand,” says Campbell Hepburn, general manager of IT&T at Hudson.

Auckland has recently engaged in a sister-city arrangement with Hamburg, and as part of that partnership NZTE’s stand will be placed next to Hamburg’s. In addition, Hamburg is offering a free bus service for IT graduates to come to CeBIT, and Hepburn will present to these graduates — expected to number around 1,000 — on New Zealand ICT career opportunities.

The graduates have already completed up to two years work experience as a compulsory part of their degree, says Hepburn. Germans are only slightly behind the UK in terms of tourist numbers to New Zealand, and therefore, Hudson is hoping to generate a lot of interest from this group.

Nearly half a million visitors come through the CeBIT fair, says Hepburn. Last year, Hudson had one-on-one dialogues with about 700 ICT professionals at CeBIT. Of those, 380 people registered their details with Hudson, of which 120 were put through and completed a formal process. Of those, 15 actually came to New Zealand, but only one has been placed into a role. While slightly disappointed at the numbers, Hepburn is convinced that establishing the contacts now will pay off in the long run. It is a strategy with a long term view, he says.

“We’ve got a role to play here,” he says. “The skills shortage is severe enough now.” Current statistics show that New Zealand will need 35,000 ICT skilled workers over the next 10 years, he says.

Of those people that come to New Zealand on a working holiday visa, a good percentage is choosing to come back to take up employment and residency at a later stage, says Hepburn. One of the challenges is that while employers generally will pick up immigrants once they are in New Zealand, they are reluctant to support people that are trying to sort out employment before they come into the country, he says.

There will be a New Zealand Day at CeBIT on the 6 March, where New Zealand technology and career opportunities will be promoted all over the fair, says Hepburn. After the fair, Hepburn will head to Hudson’s London office, where he will give a couple of seminars to people interested in an ICT career in New Zealand.

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