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Posted on March 21 2015

Shortage in skilled workers creating more jobs than candidates

By  Editor
Updated April 27 2023
Employers and recruiters find it difficult to fill vacancies as demand for skilled staff, outstrips supply, especially in hospitality and tourism.
Sam Cunningham has gone from part-time barman to general manager. Photo / Jason Oxenham

A shortage in skilled managers and workers is a growing problem for New Zealand, say employers and recruiters.

Managers in the engineering and cafe and restaurant sectors are in the fastest growing sector of demand, and in the professions, the most wanted are those for the occupational and environmental health field as well as actuaries, mathematicians and statisticians.

The most needed technicians and trade workers are metal fitters and machinists. The number of skilled job vacancies advertised online grew by 0.4 per cent for the month of February, and were up 5.8 per cent in the past year to February, says the latest Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Jobs Online report.

This month's increase in skilled vacancies was driven by the hospitality and tourism industry (up 1.8 per cent). The occupation group that saw the biggest month-on-month increase was managers (up 0.6 per cent). Skilled job vacancies increased in eight out of 10 regions over the past month.

The Nelson/Tasman/Marlborough/West Coast region led the growth (up 1.8 per cent). This was followed by the Bay of Plenty and Gisborne/Hawke's Bay regions (both up 1.3 per cent).

Over the year, the Bay of Plenty region had the biggest increase in skilled vacancies (up 28.0 per cent). The Ministry's labour market and business performance manager David Paterson says the increase in skilled vacancies for the region is consistent with the growth in employment over the year (up 6.3 per cent), compared to the national average of 3.5 per cent.

The 75 per cent jump in demand for mathematicians came as no surprise to Dr James Russell, an Auckland University quantitative ecologist in its school of biological sciences and department of statistics:

"We have seen this continuing trend over the last decade," he said. With the generation and collection of large amounts of data on the internet, there was a need for people with a whole new skill set to develop methods of analysing data in real time.

Dr Julia Novak, teaching fellow at Auckland University department of mathematics, said maths was about problem solving and thinking abstractly and outside the box to solve problems in new ways.

"It looks like the job market is reflecting that these skills are in demand for all sorts of different jobs, such as research and development."

A spokesman for the Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association said that last year more than 300 members were asked if they thought there would be a skill shortage.

"A solid two-thirds of those surveyed said yes, there would be."

The mood for hiring staff is at its most buoyant level in six years and has become increasingly balanced across New Zealand, says the latest Hudson Report: Employment Trends.

The recruiter said a net 30.1 per cent of employers intended to increase permanent staff numbers, up two percentage points (pp) compared to the previous quarter, and marking four consecutive quarters of employment growth.

"For some time both the Canterbury rebuild and investment in Auckland have been leading the employment charge, however post-election we're now seeing Wellington, led by the resumption of large government transformation projects, starting to come to the party," said Roman Rogers, executive general manager for Hudson New Zealand.

Nationwide, property & construction was the profession with the strongest positive hiring sentiment (59.7 per cent), followed by supply chain & procurement (42.2 per cent), technical & engineering (36.5 per cent), financial services (36 per cent), information, communication & technology (35.8 per cent), office support (21.3 per cent), and accounting & finance (18.9 per cent).

Pete Macauley, regional director for Michael Page New Zealand, said the Jobs Online monthly report truly reflected the market.

Property and construction sector recruiters observed an increasing job flow and hot demand for talent exceeding demand.

Graham Darlow, chief executive of Fletcher Building's Construction Division, said the construction pipeline in New Zealand was looking very strong and Fletcher Construction was confident it could staff the number of exciting projects ahead.

BCITO has been signing new apprentices at the rate of 50 a week so far this year, said its chief executive, Ruma Karaitiana.

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce acting chief executive Toni Palmer said the city's biggest growth challenge was finding people with the right skills, especially for the growing innovation and ecosystem industries, including robotics manufacturing.

"We live in paradise but it's not easy to get highly-skilled people to live here."

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett said that for the past year around 30 per cent of members had reported difficulty finding skilled people.

"Skill shortages are starting to show across a broad spectrum and that is going to constrain growth that we should be capable of," he said.

"In the information, communications and technology sector there are probably 400-500 jobs right now that you could fill at varying levels."

Bars want young workers to step up

Auckland's eateries and bars have enjoyed a boom over this summer but owners say their biggest problem is getting bright young workers to step up to a middle management role.

One of the hospitality sector's "young guns" is Sam Cunningham, aged 25, who in two years has gone from part-time barman to being a duty manager, a restaurant manager and now a general manager at the Blankenberge Belgian Cafe outlets.

His bartending skill earned a third place in the Stella Artois World Draught Masters held in Cannes, France, last year and he has set his sights on getting a job with an international beverage company, which would mean being based in Europe.

Mr Cunningham began working at the Auckland bar as a fill-in job during four years' study for a Landscape Design degree but he went to Canada to play rugby, with the aim of being an All Black like his father, Gary.

"But injuries caused me to come home and rethink my future and I came back to the bar," he said.

"I interviewed for the Hospitality NZ/ Sky scholarship to study for a National Diploma in Hospitality Management level five.

"I've nearly completed that study, which has taken 10 hours a week - on top of working 45-50 hours a week. But the bar and the school have been supportive.

"I'm surprised that there is a shortage of young people wanting to step up to management because of the opportunities to go further.

"But you have to go out and work for it."

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