Searching for a ‘small tsunami’ of skilled IT people

The HiGrowth Project is looking at how to relieve the skills shortage

There could be many people interested in working in ICT in New Zealand but information gaps could be hindering recruitment.

“There is a perception that there is a tsunami — well, maybe a small tsunami — of skilled ICT people wanting to come and work in New Zealand,” says the HiGrowth Project’s executive director, Garth Biggs.

The HiGrowth Project is presently half-way through a study analysing the precise nature of our ICT staff shortage. This has involved conducting workshops with employers, employees, recruitment agencies and the government’s Labour and Immigration agencies. The workshops have looked at what factors are important in attracting skilled people from overseas — whether foreign nationals or returning Kiwis — to take up jobs here.

Their aim is to firm-up the evidence concerning what may be stopping skilled people coming to New Zealand. Biggs says there is anecdotal evidence of an information gap between prospective employers here and potential staff overseas. People from the US, for example, see our salaries as low but don’t realise healthcare and education is substantially free.

Employers, on the other hand, want recruits to start in a matter of weeks and don’t appreciate either the long notice periods often required or the personal disruption entailed in leaving a job and home in Europe or the US.

Once HiGrowth has firmed-up what factors are actually in play, it will look to the government to put appropriate policy measures in place — perhaps similar to the incentives put in place earlier this year to ensure a smooth flow of immigrant fruit pickers.

One leading representative of the recruitment industry who has been involved in the discussions is Richard Manthel, director of consultancy Robert Walters and chairman of the IT Contract and Recruitment Association (ITCRA). While hesitant to comment on the exercise as a whole, until it is complete — “I’m just one of many participants”, he says — Manthel believes the answer lies in a mixture of education, training, immigration and “increased flexibility” from employers. And employers also need to help fill skills gaps through training and proper induction, he says.

In addition, recruits need information about New Zealand itself, and “integrating into the NZ lifestyle”, Manthel says.

While the current phase of the exercise is concerned with immigration, Biggs says a previous HiGrowth focus on education and training has already borne fruit — in the form of a framework for teaching ICT in high schools.

Biggs says a full report can be expected in September or October.

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