Chch developer lines up for talent

Expanding Christchurch-based PDA software specialist iTouch is backing the government's new "talent visa" programme by immediately applying to become an accredited employer under the scheme.

Expanding Christchurch-based PDA software specialist iTouch is backing the government’s new “talent visa” programme by immediately applying to become an accredited employer under the scheme.

Other IT industry employers and recruiters generally welcome new government initiatives to target skilled workers for the IT sector. However, they caution it is already easy to bring immigrants in and wonder if New Zealand has enough jobs and opportunities for those already here.

iTouch plans to double staff numbers to about 80 next year, which will probably mean needing some overseas workers, and it will apply to become an accredited employer, says managing director Phil Holliday.

The former Holliday Group has recently taken on five staff from overseas, mostly from Britain, and reports shortages of skilled engineers, software engineers and project managers.

ITouch already works with the Canterbury Development Corporation on recruiting overseas staff and has “good relations” with the Immigration Department, he says.

While it took one new recruit four months to gain residency, Holliday says the immigration processes are “not complicated”. The main issue is time, he says.

Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel last week announced the creation of “talent visas” and “skill shortage work permits”, to make it easier for Kiwi firms “to access the global talent pool before they go elsewhere”.

Dalziel says the talent visa, due for launch in April, will allow accredited employers to recruit “talented individuals as the need and opportunity arises”. The two-year visas will be given to accredited firms, who can show a committment to training and job security, and only for jobs paying $45,000 or more. The two-year skill shortage work permits will be awarded for jobs on a new labour market skill shortages list. This means firms seeking certain skills will not need to pass a labour market test to prove there are no suitable New Zealanders who can do the job.

Margaret Kennedy, chairman of the Information Technology and Recruitment Association, calls the measures “a good move”.

The market is not “desperate” like it was last year, says Kennedy, who is also Wellington manager of Candle IT&T recruitment, and there are now relatively large numbers looking for work in IT. But the government is not too late with the measures since the medical and other high-skill sectors, where shortages remain, would also benefit.

RPK general manager Paul Osborne says the moves will benefit all firms by increasing the talent pool.

It is already “quite straightforward” to bring the right staff over for the right role, says Osborne, whose Auckland software development company has recruited Belorussians, but time-consuming, “and there was always that nagging doubt that a problem would come up over which you have no control”.

Microsoft sales and marketing director Ross Peat describes the measures as a “positive but incremental change”. He says the changes will benefit smaller New Zealand-owned firms rather than large multinational vendors.

He expects the IT industry to recover in 12-18 months, if not before, and warns skill shortages will be worse than before.

Microsoft often recruits from overseas, but has found “no barriers” in current policy except that it took too long to process applicants.

Peace Software, meanwhile, recently took on 35 staff in Auckland and is looking to recruit 100 in 2002. HR executive Derek Van Keuren says the firm has had no difficulty finding sufficient skilled local people. When people are brought it from the US, it is “easy to get the necessary work permits”.

Arjen de Landgraaf, director of Auckland-based security specialists Co-Logic, who has recruited many overseas staff, says the moves should have happened two years ago.

But the former Dutchman, who himself took a over a year to go through the residency process in 1984, says there is not enough work for the immigrants already here.

Instead the country should try and attract more job-creating entrepreneurs.