ITANZ stems IT worker influx

The IT Association is showing itself less ready to help foreign IT workers enter the country as jobs in the sector dry up.

The IT Association is showing itself less ready to help foreign IT workers enter the country as jobs in the sector dry up.

The industry body writes letters of support for suitable people who have been offered work but need such documentation in place of formal qualifications, to meet residency or work permit requirements.

Now, says ITANZ chief Jim O’Neill, the "rejection rate" has increased from less than 40% two years ago to about two-thirds, because these people “no longer have skills in short supply".

ITANZ receives up to 70 requests each month from foreigners who have been offered jobs with New Zealand companies, an increase of about a quarter over the past year. ITANZ works with the Immigration Department, employers and recruitment agencies to compile the list of skills in short supply. The sought-after candidates then gain preference in the immigration process. This list is not published, says O’Neill, in case immigrants twist their CVs to suit what skills are needed.

ITANZ grants about 20 of these letters a month for those with three years or more experience in a required skill set. While overall immigration figures last week reveal China, followed by India, as New Zealand’s top source of new arrivals, O’Neill says appeals for letters come mainly from South Africa, Zimbabwe and the UK. Appeals from Indian immigrants, for example, are about the fifth or sixth most common, he says.

O’Neill says industry and economic forces are changing, causing the breadth of the skills shortage to decline. Around the time of Y2K mainframe skills such as CICS were needed, but the past two years have seen no demand.

"The list is not as long as before," he says.

Skills shortages, however, remain in development, e-commerce and security. These include Java, C++, Perl, Maya and Dreamweaver, plus high-end graphic and animation skills.

O’Neill says the government produces its list of skills shortages every three months, with the next likely in January.

“As more people come out of the New Zealand tertiary system with career qualifications, quite a number [of skills on the list] will change,” he says. Even skills like Java and C++ will "drop off the list".

Auckland-based Alliance IT Recruitment David Palmer agrees New Zealand has a declining need for immigrants. There remains a demand for senior C++ and developer skills, but what matters more than a particular skill set is quality of training, he says. At graduate level "excellent" New Zealand graduates means immigrants are no longer needed and, longer term, the same will apply at the senior level, he says.

Palmer says recent changes to the points system make it virtually essential to have a formal job offer to gain residency, "and people won't offer jobs to those with flaky qualifications".