Foreign IT pros home in on New Zealand

The brain drain may be reversing, say recruitment agencies, as Kiwis return home and foreigners look longingly to New Zealand. But what will they find when they get here?

The brain drain may be reversing, say recruitment agencies, as Kiwis return home and foreigners look longingly to New Zealand. But what will they find when they get here?

Recruitment agency TMP Worldwide says more than half the visitors to its Monster.co.nz site are from overseas, and rival Candle IT&T recruitment also reports growing interest from people wanting to work in New Zealand. Monster.co.nz says its New Zealand jobs portal has increased traffic by 95% over the past six months, with 56% of it from overseas. Website ratings firm Red Sheriff says 27% of Monster visitors are from Australia and 3% from the UK. Monster.co.nz recently launched a Global Gateway service, which helps people identify career opportunities in New Zealand and a range of other countries. Links are given to work, economic, travel, relocation and other issues, and include information supplied by travel publisher Lonely Planet.

Monster NZ marketing manager Emily Redmond says Global Gateway allows jobseekers to apply for jobs before they leave home or return to their home country. Recruiting and international relocation information is also offered.

Christine Fitchew, Candle’s Auckland chief, says not only are Kiwis increasingly coming home (as reported last week) but foreigners are also eyeing up New Zealand. “We have had people applying for jobs on our website saying there is nothing for them back home,” she says. This includes candidates from Perth, as well as the more common Sydneysiders.

Fitchew says Candle is dealing with so many fresh new faces looking at opportunities in New Zealand, it is increasing its emphasis on international recruitment. In the run-up to Y2K, Candle’s Auckland office had a full-time person dealing with global recruitment. A year ago that work became a part-time “add on” position, but the time being spent on it is increasing again, she says.

However, our skills shortage is not as bad as it was. Jobs are not as plentiful. Fitchew reports there are plenty of good or average candidates seeking work. The shortage remains — as ever — for “A-grade” people.

Fellow Auckland recruiter David Palmer of De Winter International says the market has readjusted. Two years ago, he says, it was common to have jobs unfilled for six months or more in most parts of IT. His firm used to guarantee work for people, but no more.

“Employers were desperate and prepared to be very open minded about the sort of people they hired. IT was a candidate’s market,” he says.

Palmer says the market has softened particularly in ERP and B2C e-commerce, and as INCIS and other large projects were canned. “It is now an employer’s market; employers are focused on getting the right person for the job. As a result, people with strong skill sets are still hard to find and are in high demand in a number of areas,” he says.

Palmer feels in the last three years the New Zealand market was driven by “fad-type trends” but is now more mature. “Now we do e-commerce if it is good business; before you did it because it was new and exciting,” he says.

He expects the New Zealand market will strengthen as user expectation of IT delivery becomes more sophisticated and software development and ASP business takes off further.

Meanwhile, demand for jobs in the US IT sector is much softer. UK-based IT news website Silicon.com reports the “skills crisis is over” in Silicon Valley. Skills shortages remain in Europe, but “San Jose executives now claim they can hire anyone they want in an industry decimated by job cuts.”

US unemployment is rising and the numbers employed has suffered its greatest fall since 1991, with a high percentage working in IT. The last few months has seen 22,000 laid off at Motorola, 20,000 laid off at Nortel, 16,500 at Lucent, 15,300 at Ericsson and 8500 at Cisco, to name a few.

Research company IDC has lowered its long-term predictions for IT shortages, though the effects in Silicon Valley are localised. However, US e-recruitment analyst Christopher Boone reports any celebration of the end of the skills crisis is premature. Once the US economy picks up again, he says, “you’ll hear the same cries of skills shortages straight away”.

Greenwood is Computerworld’s HR reporter. Send email to Darren Greenwood.

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