Posts with tag: shortage
Letters from the Southern Man
Migrating is more than just filling in forms and submitting paperwork, its a complex process that will test even the most resilient of people.
Understanding New Zealand is paramount to your immigration survival and to give you a realistic view of the country, its people and how we see the world, read our weekly Southern Man blogs. Often humorous, sometimes challenging, but always food for thought.
When I started out in this game 24 years ago my first Boss had, until fairly recently, been a senior Cabinet Minister who had held a number of portfolios including immigration. He was quite fearsome, had an ego the size of Texas, detested the stupidity of bureaucracy and the way those rules were interpreted and implemented by state functionaries with little or no incentive to question them.
No one would stand up more for the little guy than he. Underneath the ‘bring it on’ exterior beat the soft heart of a man who would sweat blood for what he believed was owed to his clients.
And no one is more the little guy than a would-be migrant trying to move from one country to another.
I know, having lead a number of Ministries, he had great insight into what running a government is like. It is seldom pretty, giant egos clashing with giant egos, different agendas vye for their moment in the sun and where good politics is seldom the same as good economics.
Being bright eyed and bushy tailed and very interested in the political process I recall asking him once if he entered Parliament believing he could change the world. He replied in the affirmative. I then asked him if he felt he had.
His hands flat on the board room table, he tipped back his head and gave one of his long, disconcertingly loud and gravelly laughs (he of the two pack a day habit).
He said no he had not. He conceded that at best he had tinkered around the edges.
Ultimately the machine was far bigger than he.
Which surprised me. A man of not insignificant ego – to effectively concede he changed little despite his best efforts I found deeply disconcerting. I always viewed him as highly intelligent and also a very crafty politician.
He has spent the rest of his working life both fearing and fighting against the machine he could never really control when he was one of the most senior politicians in it. I think it is fair to say the machine and its power actually frightens him to this day.
I suspect his world view can best be summed up as elected Governments come and go. The public service just keeps on.
Although since my old Boss’ day in the halls of power successive Administrations have tried to bring some order to bear and the public service today is far more accountable than it was in his day, meaningful reform has largely failed. If I hear ‘culture change’ once when it comes to the Public Service I have heard it a thousand times in the past 24 years. Most Departments still seem to operate in their own reality vacuum.
I wrote last week about the Work Visa process and how the ‘system’ makes the assumption that employers would prefer to engage a sometimes hostile, always complex, generally inconsistent and confusing visa process and employ non-New Zealanders over New Zealanders despite every shred of evidence suggesting the contrary is overwhelmingly the case.
How, as a result of this utter misunderstanding of how the labour market really works, even when employers have already been working with Work and Income New Zealand (to no avail) the work visa application process still sees the Immigration Department engage through their own public sector channels the same WINZ functionaries who have so often been unable to assist the employer before the employer offered the job to a non-resident. And try, successfully in many cases, to deny employers access to the ‘foreign’ workers they’d prefer not to have to employ in the first place.
That process got me thinking some more.
The case I highlighted last week becomes even more surreal when you step back from the work visa process and examine it in light of the client’s intention to secure a residence visa.
The client in that case has a prima facie claim to a residence visa and once I get him his work visa I suspect he will apply for residency. I am confident based on what I know of him that he is eligible.
Bizarrely no labour market test is applied to Skilled Migrant Category residency applications that include job offers i.e. the employer is free to offer the job to the migrant and no one cares if a New Zealander is available or not. WINZ and local applicants simply do not enter into the equation.
However because the residence process takes so long the migrant inevitably requires a work visa to buy enough time to complete the residence process.
So on the one hand the Government demands most skilled migrants now have jobs before they can get the points to gain permanent entry but on the other will try and prove through WINZ, they aren’t really needed.
Government has a residence programme which it actively markets online and through employment and Immigration Expos to the world. It works alongside favoured employers at these Expos around the world (particularly in the UK and they now plan on running them in Singapore and Malaysia) and encourage these employers to go offshore and try and recruit.
However in the next breath and following receipt of a work visa application the Immigration Department is required to carry out the local labour market check which can and often does see the work visa being declined.
That said if the employer would keep the job open for the six months or so for the residence visa application to be processed, a residence visa is happily granted.
Why have a skilled work visa policy that so actively undermines your Residence Visa policy when the same job offer applies to both and you can get the residence without the work visa?
Seriously, this has been the case for my 24 years and no Minister, no Government and no public official has ever it seemed willing to question the insanity, inconsistency or conflict of these two intertwined policies and how badly that deprives local employers of highly skilled migrants.
A simpler solution would be to grant all those who have filed an Expression of Interest (in Residence) and been selected from the pool under the Skilled migrant category a work visa for say, six months.
No wonder my old Boss laughed that day. The machine is so big there is little mere mortal Ministers can do to change it.
Didn’t he know it. Clearly Politicians in countries like ours are not experts in their portfolio. The Immigration portfolio is no different. Ministers are generally led by the nose by a Civil Service with no real clue how labour markets work and employers think.
The Skilled Migrant Category is currently under review and provides our political leadership an opportunity that only rolls around every few years to address the conflict between the two policies but I won’t be holding my breath.
Which is a little depressing for the employers of New Zealanders faced with increasing skills shortages along with all those highly skilled migrants looking to risk all to bring their skills to our country.
Until next week
Southern Man - Iain MacLeod
As the world reflects on a life well lived with the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher I have this week paused to give thought to her legacy. Saviour or demon? Reformer or wrecker? She was undeniably uncompromising and tough. She knew what she wanted. She was confident she was right on what needed to be done. She changed the landscape at home and abroad. Some say she saved the nation and others accuse her of economic sabotage. She set out to transform an inefficient public sector and union dominated economy into something that might ultimately provide a better future for her people. Yes, there were winners and losers but, let’s face it, someone had to do it. I am a bit of fan. Especially when comes to reform of ‘public services’.
We had our own (Sir) Roger Douglas who in the mid 1980s undertook economic reforms here at such a pace it made Margaret Thatcher look a bit like an economic Joseph Stalin. Douglas too was admired and reviled in equal numbers. The reality was New Zealand by 1984 was out of cash and on a one way trip to third world status. He effectively dismantled statutory rights of Unions to represent all workers, he worked on decentralising Government and sold off state run businesses – funny today to think that anyone might agree Governments can or should run telephone companies!
One thing both Thatcher and our own Roger Douglas had in common and upon which experience forces me to agree was that the ‘public service’ is generally inefficient. When a public servant is in a service role but has no financial skin in the game, it is hard to get the best outcomes for the tax paying public.
I am in the camp that says in New Zealand Government still pokes its nose into the affairs of many that it has no business being in.
Nothing illustrates that better than a visa case I am arguing right now.
In brief, the applicant has found a job in New Zealand as a Metal Machinist. He filed his own work visa. The Immigration Department indicated a few days ago they intend declining this work visa because they say the employer hasn’t made a genuine effort to fill the vacancy; there is labour market evidence which suggests that New Zealanders should be available to fill or be trained to fill the position and the salary (at $18 per hour) was too low and does not reflect ‘market rates’.
Earth to the Immigration Department - it is no great secret that local employers prefer to employ locals. Just ask any migrant who has looked for a job here. New Zealanders do not need the protection of the Immigration Department. Employers do not enjoy dealing with faceless state functionaries who have little real world experience in how the labour market functions. What employer in his right mind would play the bureaucratic, illogical and frustrating work visa game if he/she could find qualified, experienced locals who want to work?
No one outside of a mental institution.
In 24 years and thousands of work visa applications later I can with hand on heart say that I have never met one employer who employs non-residents unless they are forced to. Not one.
Migrants will usually confirm that they are always second in the queue.
Recently, one must assume as a way to lower our own unemployment rate, the Ministry of Social Development (who run WINZ – their arm where the unemployed are registered and who are tasked with finding jobs for these people) and the Immigration Department came to an agreement whereby when a work visa application is received this merry bunch of bureaucrats do the following:
1. Immigration Department alerts Ministry of Social Development (MSD) in Wellington of the position and the location of the business offering the job; then
2. WINZ Wellington gets onto the branch of WINZ closest to the employer, sends them a message to the effect of ‘there are some jobs going with employer X – get on the phone – try and help lower our national unemployment rate’; then
3. WINZ Branch ‘Work Broker’ (don’t make me laugh) makes contact with employer and comes over all eager with helpful offers to try and help them fill this vacancy; then
4. Employer usually says ‘Fantastic, I look forward to interviewing solid qualified candidates’; then
5. WINZ sends no one.
6. WINZ however tells the Immigration Department that there should be locals available with the skills or available to be trained; then
7. Immigration Department says to the employer ‘you didn’t try hard enough, WINZ says there are locals available so you cannot have the migrant’;
8. Employer scratches head and starts to weep……
The first five points cover the process. The final three the outcome.
In the past three weeks I have come across three examples of this.
Back to my client – the employer spent a month advertising late last year on Trademe.co.nz which is by far New Zealand’s busiest online job website.
Anyone unemployed or anyone interested in this position would, I assume, do what all my clients, friends and family do – they monitor it. When they are alerted to vacancies that match their skills set and profile they apply.
In this case the employer genuinely found no suitable applicants.
Some time later however having all but given up on filling the role my client was referred to him through word of mouth. The employer interviewed him by telephone. Checked his references. Checked his qualifications. Offered the job thinking that given he had tried locally and just couldn’t find someone the work visa shouldn’t be a big deal.
After my client filed his work visa the employer got a call from his friendly local WINZ Work Broker. That person asked about the position, the pay, the conditions etc and then said that WINZ would check their records and get back to the employer with some candidates. Naturally they haven’t called back nor sent a single person for interview. After almost three weeks.
Not to be overlooked in this bureaucratic morass of stupidity is the fact that the Rotorua Branch of WINZ was already regularly in contact with this employer and had been for about two years to check on vacancies and to see how they might be able to assist. Two years!
However, no one in the Branch when prodded by their Head Office in Wellington appears to have checked whatever records they keep to see if in fact they already had a relationship with this employer as part of their usual processes.
Nice one. Really efficient.
Immigration Officers continue to make life hard for employers based on garbage advice from Ministry of Social Development. WINZ couldn’t fill a vacancy if they fell into it.
Margaret Thatcher had a point and so too did Sir Roger Douglas. Public servants rarely, if ever, are as efficient and productive as their private sector counterparts. While there are undoubtedly some good ones and a minority work hard I just doubt their ability to work smart.
Unfortunately we as taxpayers and in my line of work, migrants and employers struggling to fill increasing skills shortages, pay a heavy price.
R.I.P. Maggie – you changed the world for the better. But the job isn't done here.
Until next week
Those that know me understand my views on the State and how the absence of competition and the disciplines demanded by a profit motive means that try as they might, bureaucrats will never do the job as well as the private sector.
Take last week’s blog on Engineers and our question of trying to get a straight answer out of the Immigration Department on just when an Engineer is an Engineer for the purpose of bonus points. We are still waiting on clarification on just when an Engineering qualification from a recognised university will be deemed ‘comparable’ to a New Zealand one. Clearly individual officers still do not know. We have made our own call (and will provide a money back guarantee it is right) but it makes the process of achieving certainty for our clients more time consuming and expensive – but deliver certainty we must.
The Immigration Department does not appear to feel the same sense of urgency. Heck, it has taken close to 18 months to get where we are on this question…..
Two other examples this past week to demonstrate the point of where the State and its functionaries just plain get in the way.
We are doing what is called an “Approval in Principle” for a local employer who needs to recruit over the next year around 15 Scaffolders. He has tried to find them all over New Zealand for many months, found a couple, but needs many more.
Not the most glamorous or even highly skilled profession but what there is, is a clear, demonstrable shortage of these skills across the country. This has been brought on by the Christchurch demolition and rebuild. Scaffolders are in hot demand for obvious reasons. As we have observed over recent months this is putting strain on such skills sets across the whole country as companies try and cover the Christchurch market and the rest of the country with a static or slowly growing work force given it takes time to train up new and inexperienced staff. Approval in Principle allows us to go to the Immigration Department and argue the case for the employer to recruit candidates from offshore. As soon as a company seeks more than 4 non-residents only the Associate Minister of Immigration can approve the application.
We filed the application for the company about ten days ago. We were fairly quickly contacted by an immigration official asking (demanding actually) far more evidence than the rule book would suggest is necessary. Most we could quickly and easily supply.
What irked however, was that as part of the process (absent in the rule book) was a requirement that the employer agreed to meet with a Regional Manager from Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ). This is the state organ where the unemployed are registered and which is tasked with getting the unemployed into jobs.
We pointed out that as per the evidence presented this company already had many months of working with WINZ to try and find appropriately experienced scaffolders. They had referred none. The company had managed to employ two inexperienced unemployed people given they had the right attitude, aptitude and enthusiasm to learn this work. They are currently being trained to national standards.
What purpose would such a meeting (which could only take place ten days after it was demanded by the Government) serve? Would WINZ be able to pull, rabbit like, from their hat, 15 scaffolders with three years experience immediately when over the past six plus months they could not find one?
Or were the bureaucrats simply playing a game? Best understood by themselves. Responding to some new unpublished rule that WINZ needs to send along someone senior to try and assist the employer? To be seen to be doing something to help get the unemployed off their backsides and into work?
Where was this Manager six months ago?
It is quite obvious to us that local employers always employ locals first. Just ask any migrant who comes here to find work. It does not serve the interests of the employer to recruit offshore – it is expensive, time consuming, uncertain and altogether a real hassle except when they have little other choice.
Why did the immigration officer not accept at face value the evidence provided by this employer?
I am sure we will get the Approval In Principle we seek.
The second example this past week relates to the Immigration Department’s own ‘marketing’ service of migrants to employers as they would like to believe they can assist in filling vacancies. I have a special interest in this given we, too, are trying to achieve something similar – so far without much success. Local employers continue to be reluctant to engage the process – most prefer to rely on the local labour market, then the national labour market, then would be migrants who are in New Zealand looking for work and then panic. By then finding migrants overseas can be too late.
So I asked the Marketing Manager of the Immigration Department to tell me just how many migrants in the past six months had been placed in employment through this service. After waiting two months for an answer I finally got the answer last week – they don’t know.
I asked if they don’t have any way of measuring the results of their not inexpensive online services and programmes. I haven’t received an answer but the answer is clearly no.
So it all begs the question - does the State have any meaningful role of trying to place the unemployed or migrants in jobs? Should the State be pouring financial and personnel resources into processes which they appear to fail spectacularly at?
I say no.
If the unemployed were given say, 12 months of unemployment benefit entitlement for every ten years worked I doubt we would need legions of state functionaries to ‘help’ them get jobs. They would sure as eggs find them or get new skills or possibly even get entrepreneurial.
If the Immigration Department could quantify and demonstrate that they are effectively using taxpayer dollars and filling vacancies for employers then I’d say well done. But they clearly aren’t and the oversight is lacking to force them to focus on processing and deciding on Visa applications.
No one seems to care.
And in these days of every tax dollar spent being scrutinised one wonders how these Government Departments continue to get away with it.
Until next week
Sometimes we are asked to justify the costs of our services. Which is valid but also signals to us that anyone who asks doesn’t deal with immigration rules or bureaucrats very often . In this business one wrong move with a visa application and your grandchildren won’t be Kiwis and therefore we play for very high stakes. We are the best at what we do. Our record suggests that more than 99% of the time our clients get their visa.
At such times it is good to offer examples of just how complicated, if not insane, immigration policy, processes and criteria can be and why navigating a client through it is a challenge. The complexity is often caused by poorly written policy and added to by the varying interpretations put on it by the Departmental Officials across the various branches we work with.
So if by chance all you think we do is fill out application forms ask yourself this question as we have been grappling with for the past 18 months – when, for immigration bonus work points purposes, is an Engineer an Engineer?
This believe it or not is a question that Immigration Department Officials still cannot answer after about 18 months of wrestling with the question and several attempts at issuing what they call Information Circulars and revised skills shortages definitions which set out to clarify such imponderables. We first raised some questions 18 months ago with INZ over the varying interpretations of this policy by case officers. In January 2012 we were given written clarification and took that to the market. Within months case officers were telling us that we were wrong (despite only basing our advice on written advice from their own National Office). The head of INZ forced the advice we were given to be honoured but more ‘clarifications’ were issued. Officers became more confused. Internal departmental circulars were rescinded. A new Long Term Skills Shortage List has just been published to ‘clarify’ how applicants claiming to be Engineers get bonus points. Unfortunately it still doesn’t answer the fundamental question and it looks like parts of the latest release are back under committee discussion in National Office. After 18 months…..
If you are after bonus points for work experience as an Engineer policy says you must meet one of the following criteria – you must have a qualification (note, not work experience) which is:
1. A Washington Accord accredited Engineering Degree
2. Either a qualification comparable to a:
a. Bachelor of Engineering, or
b. Bachelor of Engineering (with Honours), or Master of Engineering Degree
3. A qualification at Level 7 or higher with a letter from IPENZ certifying that the Degree and any further learning meets the academic requirements for registration as a ‘Chartered Professional Engineer’ in New Zealand
4. NZ registration as a ‘Chartered Professional Engineer’
Forget the last criteria unless you have been working in New Zealand a few years in which case you’d have enough points for residence without needing these precious bonus points in the first place. It’s a criteria that shouldn’t be there as it adds no value.
Only a few countries are signatories to the Washington Accord and even then many Engineers have degrees conferred on them from a University in a signatory country before that country signed up This immediately means they don’t satisfy the criteria.
An Engineer can chance an application to IPENZ to try and meet the third criteria but we know that more than 85% at least initially, are unsuccessful with that process.
So that leaves the third criteria but what does it mean when you must have a qualification ‘comparable to a Bachelor of Engineering’?
You might reasonably argue that if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and flies like a duck it is a duck.
You’d be wrong. The Immigration Department will often tell you it is a horse, despite being covered in feathers.
Take for example a client we are representing right now.
He has a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (Mechanical) from The University of Leeds. He qualified in 1982. A few years after he completed his Degree the University course title was changed to Bachelor of Engineering but the course content was, as far as I know, exactly the same. He was registered with the Engineering Council (UK) and has worked as an Engineer all his life.
So it’s obvious right? He has an Engineering degree, works as an Engineer and was, at least for a time, a registered professional Engineer so he should get the bonus points for working as an Engineer.
Not so fast.
Although the United Kingdom was a founding signatory to the Washington Accord, the Accord was only ratified in 1989. So he fails the Engineer test based on the first criteria. He got his Degree in 1982.
He has no letter from the Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) and we have spoken to them about the likelihood they will give him one. There is no guarantee he will get the letter either (although they tell us he might). So option 3 is uncertain.
We know he can’t meet the fourth criteria because he does not yet work in New Zealand so he simply cannot get NZ registration as a ‘Chartered Professional Engineer’.
Which leaves us arguing his qualification is ‘comparable’ to a Bachelor of Engineering.
So it’s obvious right? He must get the points that way. After all the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and the Immigration Department both automatically recognise his Degree as being comparable at the very least to a New Zealand Bachelor Degree. The question case officers have to grapple with is ‘Yes, but is it an Engineering Degree?’
The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines comparable as ‘able to be likened to another; similar’ so it has to be a no brainer, you might be thinking.
I say it again - not so fast.
And you must surely be thinking – but it’s obvious – he has a Degree that is automatically recognised by the Immigration Department as being comparable to a New Zealand Bachelor Degree and his academic record proves he studied engineering, passed in Engineering and has worked as an Engineer (the more of this I type the more insane it seems) so what he has is ‘similar’ to a Bachelor of Engineering offered in New Zealand right?
Well life could never be so simple.
The Immigration Department right now is saying he does not automatically get the bonus points.
After issuing their new criteria a week ago we seem to be back to square one and I imagine more committee meetings will be taking place at National Office of INZ as they now try to explain to case officers how to determine if clients like mine should get the bonus points.
I say he should get them – he walks, quacks and flies like a duck. I am picking then he is a duck.
Of course this would all be made so much simpler if the Department changed that one criteria to read as follows:
“A qualification comparable to a Level 7 Bachelor degree and three years highly relevant work experience in the past five years”.
Then you are going to get Engineers and nothing else. In fact we suggested something similar to this a few months ago but it appears to have been ignored in the review of the review of the review.
With our definition the work experience bonus points test becomes just that, a test of recent Engineering work experience while preserving the requirement for a recognised University Degree.
It all begs the question why something which in fact is pretty simple is made so horrendously confusing and difficult. And takes 18 months to go round in a big wide circle.
Remember among all of this chaos we still have a success rate in excess of 99%. And that is why we charge what we charge.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
What a week.
And stick with me. Yes this week’s Letter from New Zealand is longer than usual but it is a goodie. I think you’ll find it one of the most interesting ever.
I had a brush this past week with state spin doctoring in respect of an article that was being written by the Christchurch Press for which I was being interviewed. It was an interesting lesson in the power of state officials and politicians to talk crap with a straight face. Although not surprised by the verbal gymnastics of the Minister and his Spin Meisters it has been more than a little Orwellian. I do hope the good readers of the Christchurch Press can spot Government spouted B**S when they read it.
The article was premised on my view that the unwillingness of most NZ employers to head offshore to recruit prospective staff but expect them to come to NZ first is going to severely slow down the rebuild of Christchurch. Sectors like construction, trades and engineering are going to see real and crippling skills shortages in the coming years if employers don’t work with people like us who are in constant touch with a database of over 20,000 highly skilled, motivated and fluent English speakers – who on the whole need skilled jobs here to gain Resident Visas.
I mentioned, by way of background to the journalist researching the article, that employers looking offshore are going to be increasingly important because of Government cuts to skilled migrant numbers over the past two years.
I said this with great confidence knowing the statistics and truth were very firmly on my side.
Like a good journo he went to the Department’s own website to check on my claims about cuts and then to get comment from the Ministry’s spin doctor and the (new) Minister himself.
The spin doctor denied my explanation of this incontrovertible truth (I assume without giggling) and the Minister also chimed in with a well-rehearsed line he and his predecessors have been trotting out every time I have raised this issue over the past two years. ‘Not true’ he cried.
‘Funny that’ I told the journalist – I have it in writing from the Head of the Immigration Department.
Even without that it is easy enough to demonstrate.
The Government sets out its three year rolling totals in its Operational Policy Manual and to quote the current Residence Programme in respect of skilled migrants:
‘The allocation of places within the NZRP for the Skilled/Business stream is approximately 80,700 to 89,925 places across the three year period’
The current three year period started on 1 July 2011 and finishes on 30 June 2014.
Business Migrants also form part of that quota, but they can be measured in the hundreds each year so are statistically not significant.
For the sake of simplicity call the ‘average’ target in a year to be 27,000 Resident Visas to be granted (being 1/3 of 81,000). So how many skilled migrant Resident Visas have actually been issued over the first 18 months of the three years?
The answer is around 28,000.
Why so low when the target was 40,500 at this mid point?
Simple. INZ cut the numbers.
How can I be so sure?
The Department’s stats (checked and quoted by the journalist) show that in 2010 INZ was selecting 750 Expressions of Interest (EOI) from the Skilled Migrant Pool each fortnight as they had been for nine years before that in an attempt to hit that midpoint target of around 27,000 skilled migrant Resident Visa approvals a year. Even selecting 750 a fortnight to further process toward residency they seldom, if ever, reached their annual target.
Two years ago they started routinely selecting only 550 EOIs a fortnight.
Last year they selected on average about 580 EOIs a fortnight.
If you needed to select from your ‘Pool’ 750 Expressions of Interest a fortnight to try and get close to reaching your annual quota of 27,000 people but you never actually achieved quota how can you expect to meet your annual quota if you select 1/3 fewer people?
You with me? It isn’t rocket science.
So what did INZ say in response to this glaring if inconvenient truth?
The Minister said ‘There's no directive to cut the numbers of skilled migrants, but we're not going to lower the threshold for applicants just to try and hit or maintain a number.”
Oh really Minister? Who ordered INZ to cut the numbers being selected from the Pool from 750 a fortnight to 550 and then back up slightly to 580?
And what did the INZ spin doctor say to explain this mysterious fall off in skilled migrant numbers (of which there had apprently been no cut)?
The Christchurch Press reported that an Immigration NZ spokeswoman said the number of skilled migrants was not being kept low by design.
''The numbers are influenced by current skill shortages.
''In times of lower unemployment, more offers of employment are made resulting in more approvals under [the skilled migrant process], and vice versa.''
Oh if only it were true.
Demand to be one of the lucky 27,000 a year to get these (supposedly available) Resident Visas is as great as it has ever been. The evidence for this is equally clear – after each Pool draw there are now more EOIs left in the Pool, hoping for subsequent selection, than at any time in the past. This means that as many people want to be selected as historically have, but fewer are being selected leading to greater numbers sitting in the Pool after each Pool draw.
INZ’s mouthpiece claims these are ‘lower quality applicants.’ Well, they were certainly of high enough quality and good enough up until 2011 to be selected and in most cases approved for residence so how come they are now labelled as ‘lower quality’ and shouldn’t be selected?
Anything to do with potential political concern that with unemployment around 7% the Government does not wish for there to be any perception we are letting in migrants when our own unemployment rate is uncomfortably high? Despite of course every study ever carried out on Planet Earth that proves skilled migrants do not compete with, let alone take jobs from, the unemployed?
So I can assure you this fall of over 10,000 migrants year is nothing to do with the local labour market conditions - it is everything to do with fewer being selected from the pool. And that was a conscious decision by the powers that be.
It goes without saying if you continued to select 750 a fortnight these latter day ‘lower quality’ applicants would suddenly become, in the Spinner’s manual, ‘quality skilled migrants who have demonstrated a high potential to settle and contribute to the NZ economy’. That’s how the spin doctors used to publicly justify letting in people who did not have job offers……before the cuts that is.
Put any spin on it you like but a cut is a cut.
Funny how even with the knife in their hands the spin doctors and Minister want to deny they have used it.
I am not sure how dumb these people think we all are.
So all in all an interesting week and a tale which one might be tempted to pass off as simply a case of lies, damned lies and statistics.
Pity then the employers and people of Christchurch who need skills to rebuild their homes, schools, workplaces and city. It’s going to take a whole lot longer than any of them realise, in my humble opinion, to rebuild it all unless and until the Government gets serious about ensuring it delivers to this economy 27,000 highly skilled, English speaking and motivated migrants a year.
That coupled with employers getting off their chuffs and starting to look offshore for skilled employees before they have exhausted their efforts to find those skills locally and starting to panic over not having enough staff.
What would be really smart is a combination of the two – Government lets in more carefully screened migrants with the skills we will need in the years to come by returning to their pre-2011 selection numbers of 750 a fortnight and employers in Christchurch (and the rest of the country) understanding they may well need to look offshore through companies like Immagine and iPlacements – our migrant to business placement service.
Until next week
The Immigration Department is going through another of its restructuring's and this time it involves many Managers (particularly at a branch level) reapplying for their jobs. This is a way, I suspect, of easing out the career deadwood and bringing in ‘outsiders’ who can, in theory, bring private sector disciplines and approaches.
Which has, in theory, its merits, but someone needs to make those that make these calls understand that a monopolistic Government Department that is not subject to competition and has no ‘bottom line’ financial accountability to shareholders or employees cannot and never will be able to be run like a profit motivated private sector enterprise.
When you can charge what you like, can offer service as inconsistent as you like, spread misinformation like confetti and generally screw peoples’ lives with little to no financial penalty (and setting aside the morality of this model) then you can swap public sector for private sector managers and nothing much will change.
I believe that competition keeps any organisation on its toes. You can have ex-private sector managers, KPI’s and all that garbage till the cows come home but when it is not your money on the line and your staff get paid simply because they turn up to work thanks to your operating a cosy monopoly then what real incentive is there to improve your efficiency, productivity or service offerings?
I get the theory, I question the ability to execute.
For starters, what high flying private sector manager would ever want to go and work for the public service? I question the calibre and motivation of such people. Some of you may be thinking – life isn’t all about money Mr Southern Man and I would agree with you. But money and the risk of losing it is a mighty fine motivator for efficiency, productivity and delivering value.
I rather suspect, however, it is a case of our Government saying, well it couldn’t be any worse.
Although I was assured by the Operations Manager two or three years ago that it would in its first Skilled Migrant Pool draw of each year select everyone who has a job offer, this year, they did not.
In our first Pool draw the only people selected were those claiming 140 points.
As it did the last two times it sent a tsunami of uncertainty around the migrant world.
That meant the precedent was set (if the third time something happens is a precedent) and there were hundreds of people sitting in the Pool who had done just what our Government expects of them – risked everything, sold up, resigned their jobs in their home country, came to New Zealand, broke through the labour market barriers, found skilled employment, claimed, say 125 points with that job, filed an Expression of Interest and were not selected from the Pool.
When I explained to the Acting Operations Manager that this was ‘madness’ and I had been assured, if not guaranteed, by the Head of the Department himself that all those who ever claimed a job offer would always be selected from the Pool, the institutional memory must have lapsed.
To not select everyone with a job offer sends a very clear signal – even if you do come and get employment you may never be selected.
The Department’s response?
Oh don’t worry those with jobs will be selected in the next Pool draw.
Don’t worry? But you have set the precedent now – by not going back and selecting all those in the Pool who had jobs in that first Pool draw of 2013 you have sent a strong signal to the market – if you have a job but not 140 points you are guaranteed nothing.
I pointed out to the Acting Operations Manager that to respond with such a lame defence is to totally misunderstand the motivation of migrants and their tolerance for risk.
If he had wanted to know about migrant motivation he wouldn’t have been talking to the Business Analyst (who I assume sets the pass marks). He would have talked to someone else. Nice. Business Analysts who don’t understand their own business.
If this doesn’t demonstrate quite clearly that this operation is run by a number of left hands and a whole lot of right hands, none of whom knows what the other is doing, nothing will.
You cannot separate from your business analysis Pool draws and pass marks and what drives migrants. Signals sent through cuts to numbers, not selecting those with job offers cannot and do not slip by unnoticed.
Now, I cannot go to the market and say with hand on heart that notwithstanding I have it in writing from the Head of this Department that all those with jobs will be selected each Pool draw you have subordinates either unaware of those instructions or who are off doing their own thing.
A second example is INZ fees. I compete with others for my consulting fees in a free market. INZ does not. They outrageously increased their fees in the middle of 2012 by a whopping 17%. This in a country where inflation is running at 0.8%.
How did they justify it?
Because they didn’t have to.
They have a captive audience and they can do what they like and charge what they like.
If only I could increase my fees by 17%.
So to all those Managers on their way out – welcome to the real world of the private sector (assuming anyone in the private sector might want to employ you). To the private sector people heading into this den of unaccountability and monopolistic behaviour – good luck, you are going to need it. It will probably cost you your sanity.
Just do not ever forget that migration is a two way street and if you are going to call migrants your ‘customers’ treat them as such. Do not, as the Department has always done in the past treat them and their employers as ‘captives’ just because they cannot go down the road and get a better service elsewhere.
Until next week
Our media seem to love beating up on New Zealand. One of the ways they do it is by regularly reporting on how many of us are leaving for Australia.
I confess I get really tired of it – we have a common border with Australia and the whole idea is to allow the free flow of people between us. It clearly has advantages for the people of both countries.
A recent series of articles in the NZ Herald has highlighted the issue once again but for the first time asked the question if anyone is actually better off in moving over to Australia.
In the past year something like 30,000 New Zealand citizens have moved to Australia with the intention of remaining there for 12 months or more (which is the statistical definition of an emigrant). The newspaper laments these ‘record numbers’ as if it is some indictment on New Zealand. What frustrates me is that as a percentage of New Zealand’s population the numbers leaving are nowhere near a ‘historic record’ when measured as a percentage of our population. The numbers represent about 0.7% of this nation’s people. In raw numbers, yes, the numbers are the highest they have been but surely a better measure is the percentage? Our population continues to grow and the percentage moving across the Tasman appears to not be.
Given 2% of our population living here are Aussies and 2% of theirs are New Zealanders it is clear huge numbers of them don’t fancy living here just as 98% of New Zealanders are quite happy not to be living there.
What I cannot work out is why anyone might care anyway.
The reality is we enjoy a borderless existence with our neighbours in Australia if you are a NZ citizen (not a resident visa holder). This means I can get on a plane and go and live there without visas and they can come and live here with either a Resident Visa or Citizenship – and every year thousands do.
The issue however is a little more complex than it might at first appear and for years the Aussies have been quietly making it less and less palatable for New Zealanders to move there. One can only wonder why given the statistics on who goes in terms of their education and qualifications, income , tax paying and so on fall firmly in Australia’s favour.
Every study ever done on either side of the Tasman Sea shows that New Zealanders living in Australia are better educated than your average Aussie, earn more than your average Aussie and pay more tax than your average Aussie.
Which makes me wonder why New Zealanders have for so long been something of a political football in Australia. About 30 years ago when asked about the Kiwis leaving for Australia our Prime Minister of the day famously quipped ‘that it raises the IQ of both countries’.
Brilliant line and one that has gone down in NZ history.
Increasingly we are being made into second class citizens there.
In 1994 the Australian Government changed the law and created a special class of visa just for us – it is the ‘you can remain indefinitely visa but you are essentially only temporary resident’.
Then in what looks suspiciously like a case of Mathilda throwing her toys out of her Billabong the Aussies decided in 2004 to make things even tougher it appears because our Government wouldn’t agree to a common immigration policy and our failure to be bullied into reimbursing them for any social security and welfare payments made to our citizens there, they changed the rules and restricted New Zealanders access to welfare.
We have effectively become ‘guest workers’ and I, for one, resent it.
It is all so utterly illogical – their own data shows that ex-pat New Zealanders pay A$2.50 for every A$1.00 we receive in welfare and other social security. Call me a maths weakling but I’d call that a good deal for Australia….and question whether our witty Prime Minister wasn’t actually being serious back when he made the comment about IQ.
New Zealanders now living in Australia who have not gone through the same residence visa process as any other migrant are barred from all sorts of entitlements Australians are entitled to in education, unemployment assistance, accommodation support and health care and last year our new lowly status was made very clear to us when a number of New Zealanders’ homes were destroyed in the Queensland floods and only intervention by their Prime Minister on compassionate grounds saw these people being granted emergency assistance. The Aussies were quite happy to say ‘tough luck, you are Kiwis so you get nothing’ despite their being lawfully resident there, paying their taxes and I am sure contributing to the country.
Which contrasts with how we treated the many Australians whose homes were destroyed in the Christchurch earthquakes – they got everything that their New Zealand neighbours got in terms of financial assistance. I cannot imagine a situation where a New Zealander living in Christchurch would look at his Australian born neighbour, shrug and say, ‘nah mate, you are really just a guest worker here and you are on your own…..’.
Why New Zealand tolerates this inequity I will never know.
The old myth that people migrated to New Zealand only so they could move to Australia was never something I experienced in my line of work (and if anyone should have seen it it would be me). No doubt some migrants obtained their citizenship (until a few years ago it was easier to get only requiring PR here and three years spent in the country including time on temporary visas) and did move over but in my experience they tended to be people who were from ethnic minorities that had bigger and better established communities in Australia or who had been offered jobs, were transferred through work or wished to retire.
Now I find it hardly ever happens.
I have written before that we actively market Australia for those that wish to live there but we also use it as a back door to New Zealand. This is because if you secure a residence visa of Australia you are guaranteed a residence visa of New Zealand on arrival here. I love the fact we can offer it from a commercial perspective but from a national pride perspective I’d stop it. That perhaps would be stooping to their racist and jingoistic level and I’d like to think New Zealanders are better than that.
Given we allow Australian citizens and Resident Visa holders to step off the plane, waltz down to the local Work and Income office and register for the unemployment benefit, put their kids into our schools, use our hospitals without ever contributing a single cent to that system and lead a merry life off our sweat and toil, surely it isn’t too much to ask the same in return?
If there was any real evidence New Zealanders were a drain on the Australian economy then perhaps they might be justified but it is estimated every New Zealander who moves to Australia is worth $3000 net to their economy.
As long as we offer such generosity to them it is a little odd to me that our Government does not get a little tougher with them every time they chip away at New Zealanders’ rights and entitlements there.
We either have this spirit of togetherness and oneness with our Aussie cousins or we don’t.
If I was an Australian politician with a long term view (a little oxymoronic I grant you) I’d keep a careful eye on the future. The world’s climate is changing as it always has, only now, possibly more quickly.
Australia was initially settled at a time of relative wet and this allowed them to farm areas that were never suited for the purpose. Professor Tim Flannery (possibly the smartest Australian I have ever listened to or read) believes that the human carrying capacity of Australia is about 8 million people owing to the aridity of most parts of it and the propensity for drought. Of course they have three and a half times that many people. Access to fresh water is already a major economic and political issue and in years to come it is only going to get worse.
Although many parts of this country also gets regular droughts, overall we are not short of fresh, clean water.
I can see the day when the flow of people may well reverse and the Aussies may want to live in a country blessed with consistent rainfall and a less extreme climate.
I’d hate to think we might restrict their entry on account of the fact that there are too many of them arriving here and they are drinking our water…
Until next week
A few weeks ago my colleague Paul wrote a great piece for this blog, busting some of the common immigration myths.
It got good feedback and comment and as I sit here in Singapore interviewing hour after hour and day after day I realised we could, between us, write an entire book on immigration myths that we bust.
Of my four golden rules for clients to survive the immigration visa process with any of their mental faculties intact (assume nothing, suspend logic, just when you think you know the rules your visa will be processed by an officer who doesn’t) the fourth is to be very careful of spending too much time on the Immigration Department’s website – it can be dangerous for the fine print you miss or misinterpret, it is generally pretty confusing given both the way it is written and the annoying way different bureaucrats interpret their own criteria differently and inconsistently.
This week then I thought I would add a few more that crop up by those considering the Skilled Migrant Category (points) all the time.
First myth - The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is compulsory for applicants and partners. False. It is not. There are three ways of proving your English is of an acceptable standard.
1. The IELTS test and the Principal Applicant must score an average of 6.5 across the four modules tested of reading, writing , listening and speaking; or
2. The Principal Applicant has a recognised qualification (as in recognised for the award of points) for which English was the medium of instruction; or
3. Any other evidence that might satisfy an immigration officer.
Given most skilled migrants have to secure jobs right now following last year’s cuts in skilled migrant numbers most of the time we appear able to convince officers that the securing of that job satisfies the policy.
The second big myth is that qualifications, usually degrees, are mandatory to qualify under the skilled migrant category. That too is incorrect. For those aged 28 to 45 so long as they have an offer of skilled employment in New Zealand then the combination of their age, work experience and that job offer is generally enough to be selected from the ‘Pool’. Our message to those in this age bracket is that the key to certainty of outcome is the job offer in New Zealand, not the qualifications.
Myth # 3. In my book the single greatest myth of all, is the belief that it is illegal to enter New Zealand either visa free or on a Visitor Visa to look for work or to attend interviews. This too is incorrect but the confusion is understandable given we have all heard of stories of people being turned around at the airport. I hasten to add it has never happened to any of our clients but a few have come close.
Let me be clear – it is not legal to enter New Zealand visa free or on a Visitor Visa if you are already in possession of a job offer. Such people must apply for a Work Visa before they leave home. Those who are interested in settling in New Zealand and who require jobs to make that happen are acting within the law if they intend on their visit checking the country out as a possible destination to settle, to check out schools for the children, housing, cost of living and to explore their employability which includes applying for jobs. Those that apply for Visitor Visas before they come to the country who say the sole reason for their visit is a ‘holiday’ or to visit ‘friends and family’ but who also have an intention to look for work are treading a thin line and exposing themselves later (once they secure employment) to accusations from the Department that they lied on their Visitor Visa application form. This did happen to one of our clients when they secured a job while in New Zealand and we filed the Work Visa locally but we pointed out to the officer involved that the client was quite entitled to enter as a visitor and change their status once here. At no point did they lie or mislead the Department on any visa application they had made previously.
We deal with this issue by insisting that clients tell the truth on their Visitor Visa applications or if they are asked on arrival at the airport. If they do they have nothing to fear. They should never be turned around at the airport or denied the ability to change their status later.
Finally, I may rank among one of the harshest critics of the Immigration Department and I make no apology for calling them to account when they break or do not understand their own rules given the enormous stakes my clients are playing for, not to mention the horrendous application fees they charge these days. However, I always like to believe that I am big enough to offer credit where credit is due.
In a ‘can’t life be humbling?’ moment I was almost blocked from boarding my Singapore Airlines flight last Friday when leaving Auckland as my passport expires in 5 months. Although to enter New Zealand a passport need only be valid for three months, apparently in Singapore it is six. My understanding (and this was confirmed by a helpful local immigration officer I consulted with this week!) is this is a guideline only. Anyway having been warned by the airline I might be denied entry and having indemnified the airline they let me go to take my chances. On arrival I was pulled aside but granted a 30 day visa. I was told, however, the Malaysians might not be so accommodating this weekend when I head to Kuala Lumpur. So while I was flying my PA called the NZ High Commission in Singapore and asked them if they would be able to issue me a new passport this week. To their enormous credit and my great appreciation, Susan Woods of the High Commission immediately made contact with HQ in Wellington and got permission to issue me an Emergency Travel Document. On Monday I went to see her to drop off the application form and fee and she advised me it could be picked up the next day. I haven’t yet had a chance to collect it given the pressure of meetings but I am confident that it will be ready when I nip down Orchard Road tomorrow.
So to Susan Woods and any other official that played a part in getting me out of this little ironic slip up – a heartfelt thanks.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
They say out of adversity opportunity can blossom.
The Holy Grail in the immigration business has been to try and, in a meaningful way, get jobs for migrants. In the twenty-three years that I have been in this business it is fair to say no-one has ever been able to do it. Sometimes Immigration Advisers “dabble” in recruitment and there is no doubt, pre-licensing, recruiters dabbled in immigration. No-one successfully bridged the gap, however, that exists between the labour market and migrants.
The chasm that existed grew larger when the Government effectively decided eighteen months ago that most skilled migrants would need jobs in order to secure the points to get permanent residence.
Those people sitting off-shore who were keen on coming to New Zealand but understood they would need jobs, immediately turned to job portals like Seek.co.nz and Trademe.co.nz (Jobs) where 80% of available job vacancies are listed. To their surprise they found (and continue to find) overwhelmingly that employers and recruiters demand Work Visas or permanent residency as a prerequisite for offering a job. Given that Immigration Policy does not allow for many people the granting of a Work Visa without having a job first and most need the job to get the residency, this was a catch 22 situation that many people could find no resolution to.
For those who are highly employable with a native English speaking background our advice has always been fairly clear and somewhat simple. That advice is to gather the appropriate paper work for the visa for 3-4 months before leaving home, get on a plane having resigned your job, come to New Zealand, follow our advice on job hunting and overwhelmingly those clients get jobs and within a few weeks we get them a Work Visa and within a few months a Resident Visa.
The Holy Grail, however, would be to successfully put migrants in touch with employers before they came to New Zealand or at least have a number of interviews lined up for clients who need the job to get the points.
After much consideration, discussion and research we very quietly launched a new Division of Immagine New Zealand some months ago called i-Placements. The “i” is for immigration. The “Placements” we hope, speaks for itself.
Our desire was not to become recruiters (God forbid!) but given the earthquakes of 2010 and early 2011 in Christchurch was, to us, a real game changer.
The i-Placements proposition for employers is that there is a huge amount of reconstruction to be done literally from the (under)ground up. If they could tell us what their needs are likely to be in terms of skill sets and occupations six months before they really needed the bodies on the ground here in NZ, we could go to the fluent English speaking migrant markets that we serve and actively recruit those skill sets and at the very least put the migrant and potential employer in touch with one another so that the migrant could come to New Zealand reasonably confident that they have interviews to attend if not a job. In turn, the employers would not have a mad panic last minute rush to fill vacancies when job tenders, for example, were accepted.
Which I suspect is exactly what is going to happen in Christchurch given they tell us they are going to be short of skills to the tune of 30,000- 35,000 people within the next 12-24 months.
The problem that migrants have is generally employers (and certainly recruiters) are very “short term” in their outlook. That is to say most employers leave it until the last minute to begin recruiting for positions and recruiters are driven by monthly sales target cycles.
Migrants, however, have longer time horizons because they are not generally immediately available and need to sort out their lives in their home country, work out their notice, come to New Zealand, get their jobs and complete the Visa process and all of that normally takes around six months. Mostly they cannot just pack up and fly here with a work visa inside four weeks even if offered a job simply because the visa process alone takes many weeks to gather the paperwork and a few more to process the actual visa.
We are hoping i-Placements bridges those time horizons because it is designed to provide employers with a pipeline of potential skill sets that they require over say the next 6 plus months and it allows us to offer greater confidence to our own clients that they will have a job to come to and, therefore, should engage us in the process.
The client wins if they have a job to come to.
The employer wins because they have willing, fluent English speaking, culturally compatible and highly skilled employees coming through the immigration system that cuts out the expense of the Recruiter. Immagine New Zealand of course removes the hassle of dealing with the Immigration Department from the employer and our track record of virtually total success with getting work visas will take the guess work out of that part of securing non-resident employees.
We win because we can help more people settle in New Zealand.
There will obviously be a few provisos attached to all of that and the two most important, to anyone reading this who thinks it might be a swimmingly good idea, is that employers will agree to retain us if they decide to offer a job to one of our clients and they will pay a fee (between a third and a half what recruiters charge).
Migrants will only be able to use i–Placements if they have retained Immagine New Zealand to work with them to prepare, lodge and process their entire residence visa application. Frankly that is where we will continue to make our money.
To be clear then (before the emails start flying this way):
• We are not recruiters
• Right now i-Placements is focussing on Construction and related Engineering positions along with some trades (especially Carpenters, Plumbers and Electricians)
• Employers only get access to our candidates if the candidate has retained Immagine to help with the entire residence and temporary visa process. And this starts with our detailed residence eligibility assessment to ensure there is no impediment to obtaining the necessary visas if the client is offered a job. The cost of that assessment to the migrant candidate remains NZ$250.
This could be a real winner for the employers of Christchurch who are increasingly screaming out for skills (especially carpenters). The smart ones who are thinking about their needs six months out from now are the employers we want to work with.
I have no doubt that as the rebuild gets underway in earnest in Christchurch it is going to suck skills out of the rest of New Zealand and this in turn is going to create shortages in places like Auckland within 12-18 months. I imagine no one will be able to afford to build a house in this town in two years as wages are pushed up to counter the offers that will come out of a desperate Christchurch labour market.
So to all you (Christchurch) employers who are looking for hard working, fluent English speaking construction, Engineering and trades workers send us an email email@example.com or visit www.iplacements.co.nz
Until next week...
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
But not without a little help from around 36,000 additional workers and possibly Bob the Builder.
The Southern Man takes a break this week, enjoying some R&R in Malaysia, leaving this week’s commentary to me (Paul Janssen).
Barrack stole the slogan from Bob and I feel comfortable stealing it from Barrack, however it remains to be seen if the powers that be, tasked with rebuilding Christchurch will be shouting it from newly built roof tops.
The Canterbury Employment and Skills Board (CESB) announced in late 2011, that around 36,000 additional workers would be required to fuel the rebuild of the quake struck city. To give that number some context, the challenge at hand is to repair over 100,000 quake damaged homes, rebuild over 10,000 homes from the ground up and continue with a 15 year commercial rebuild project to bring ‘back to life’ the downtown commercial area.
Current estimates put the total amount of financial investment into the rebuild at around $20 billion dollars, with this figure growing every day.
It’s always difficult to predict these numbers, but even more recent reports which have outlined emerging labour force shortages have consistently suggested around 35,000 plus new employees are needed over the life of the rebuild. Of course as the size and scope of the project unfolds this number continues to change. No matter which way you look at it, the task is a mammoth one.
Although the rebuild project has really only just started and in fact there isn’t an awful lot of rebuilding going on but rather continued work on assessing damage, the economic effects of this potential employment behemoth are already being felt. Just six months in and average wages for the Canterbury region have increased by 3.6% with local firms increasing salaries in an effort to attract skilled staff to the region. With small civil projects (under $2.5million) being the first to gain approval, the local employment market is already suffering a skills shortage. This in turn leads to any company involved in the rebuild project to try and attract staff from other parts of New Zealand or indeed offshore. With Canterbury recently eclipsing Auckland for employment growth, it’s no wonder that approximately 50% of employers were struggling to fill vacancies in the latter parts of 2011.
And whilst people directly involved in the construction effort (Engineers, Electricians, Plumbers, and Builders etc) are in very high demand, there has also been a ‘seismic’ increase in the number of vacancies of other occupations, such as IT, Telecommunications, Accounting and Finance. This stands to reason as many big employers who are active in the rebuild establish satellite offices, needing their own remote infrastructure and support staff.
Having recently visited Christchurch to meet with some of these employers, the evidence of skill shortages is pretty much everywhere. What should have been a 15 minute drive from the airport to the city fringe was a 50 minute drive through roadside construction detours and convoys of earth moving equipment. Oddly enough the city still looks very much intact (I was glued to the window on the plane as we landed) and people continue to go to work (if it’s still there), school and carry on with their normal routines, but as you get closer to the CBD, the evidence of the rebuild becomes more obvious.
People are also incredibly upbeat, considering what they have gone through, and the city has a certain ‘determined’ feel about it. Every person I spoke to during my two day visit seemed incredibly positive about what was going on around them, although there was definitely a sense of two ‘camps; those that were still there and, as we say in NZ, ‘mucking in’ and those that had relocated (one guy called them national traitors).
But with 36,000 staff needed to complete this potentially 10-15 year project and skill shortages emerging so early in the piece what does this all mean?
Well from where we sit, it’s pretty simple. Much of the labour force required over the life of the rebuild is going to have to come from newly trained staff or more logically from migrants. Companies bidding on projects in Christchurch often don’t have time to train new employees (although the Government has committed significant funds to this option) so they are inevitably forced to rely on overseas candidates to fill the gaps.
One of the big issues is that many of these employers don’t actually know how to find staff overseas. Even if they do, there is still the immigration process to deal with which, to be honest, could do with its own damage assessment.
Shortly after the earthquakes happened, we realised that there would be a massive spike in demand for anyone with Engineering, Construction or Trade skills and we regularly encourage our clients to consider Christchurch as an option for employment. Despite the obvious reservations about moving to a city levelled by an earthquake (or several of them) many of our existing clients have indeed relocated there, found work quickly and have settled in very well. They continue to do so today.
This then led to an even bigger idea (we have many of them around here) and that was to create a system to bridge the gap between New Zealand employers looking for skills and migrants who have them. And so a few weeks ago, IMMagine New Zealand launched a new service called iPlacements (www.iplacements.co.nz).
Targeted directly at employers looking to source and relocate skilled staff, iPlacements is recruitment ‘flipped on its head’. The goal is to give employers a means to find candidates overseas who they may not be able to find locally, using IMMagine New Zealand’s resources and track record with the immigration process to successfully bring them to New Zealand.
If ever there was a time and a place for a system that connected ‘would be migrants’ with New Zealand employers, Christchurch is it, but in reality the benefits of iPlacements covers the entire country. After all, as the labour force heads south for the rebuild, shortages will appear (and continue) in the north.
36,000 people is roughly the same population as Gisborne in the North Island, which means that we need a town load of people to complete this task. With our own population growth statistics leaving little to be desired, the continual movement of people to Australia, and an historical lack of skilled, trained trades people, a significant portion of the rebuild population will be ‘new New Zealander’s’.
So from our perspective at least, when the question is raised “Can you rebuild Christchurch” I know I will be chanting (without the star spangled banner or the yellow safety helmet) – “Yes We Can!”
Until next week – Paul Janssen