Young Travellers Bring Skills

Steve Hart: Young travellers bring skills

The New Zealand Herald
5:00AM Thursday July 26, 2007

The Auckland Chamber of Commerce wants to put employers in touch with new arrivals

Auckland's Chamber of Commerce is aiming to attract highly skilled people to work in New Zealand through a new website and marketing plan. It also hopes employers will be more open-minded about hiring people from abroad.

Five years ago a survey by the chamber showed around half the companies it spoke to could not recruit the staff they needed. Meanwhile, migrants were walking the streets looking for work. To bring the two together the chamber launched, which has so far helped place more than 3000 migrants into jobs.

“The New Kiwi scheme is still running,” says the chamber's chief executive Michael Barnett. But now the organisation is stepping up its drive to help Kiwi firms fill the skills gap by encouraging people to have their big OE in New Zealand.

“We have to get out of the mindset of thinking that people just come here to live,” says Barnett. “I think New Zealand can also be a destination for young people in their 20s who want to come here to build their CV and have a different life and work experience.

“I think from an immigration perspective we should look at those people who want to live here. But also be mindful of those who just want to get some international work experience. They may work here for a while, leave and perhaps return later to live and work here permanently.”

Barnett says there are plenty of people around the world who would like to work in New Zealand. And a survey carried out this year by the chamber showed that 46 per cent of the businesses it is talking to cannot recruit the staff they need.

“What is happening now is that the Immigration Department is getting lots of inquiries. But as an organisation we are the ones who know where the jobs are,” says Barnett. “The Immigration Department can't really do what we can because we've got the contacts with employers. We can look at job applicants and connect them with businesses in New Zealand.”

The chamber has now taken over a database of more than 4000 international job hunters from the Immigration Department – many of whom have qualifications in technology, engineering, accounting and finance. Barnett says these are the sorts of skills needed and that, with an endorsement from the chamber and a job offer, migrants will have an easier time getting a visa.

Job hunters can register their CV at for free and employers will be able to search it for no charge. The chamber is promoting the website to New Zealand immigration offices around the world. It will be advertising it in migrant newspapers and chamber members plan to attend two career expos in Britain and The Netherlands.

“Our organisation and those in our network can facilitate the introduction of job hunters to businesses and industry sectors across New Zealand and that will contribute to satisfying the huge demand that's out there for the right people with the right skills,” says Barnett.

But while the chamber may be able to smooth the way for migrants, Barnett says they will still have to pass all the normal security and health checks. However, before that process starts the people who have expressed an interest in working here need to make formal applications to the Immigration Department.

“And we can help them do that,” says Barnett. “Then we need to take their CVs and promote them to New Zealand businesses.”

Barnett says part of the challenge is convincing employers that the people they need are ready to come, that a video conference interview is a good way forward that while a candidate won't be available tomorrow, they could be just a few months away.

“If employers know that they are going to get the right skills from people who can come into the workplace and be productive, and have good attitudes because they want to be here, then I think we have a great opportunity bring the people we need into the country,” he says.

“And we need to talk to employers about increasing diversity in the workplace. People from abroad bring in different thinking, different skills and they offer their employers the potential to access networks and business contacts abroad – in the migrant's home country.”

He recommends employers plan recruitment carefully by setting timelines, being sure of the skills they need, understanding the lag between job offer and the person arriving and that when people do arrive they are looked after and settled correctly.

“This website is a new approach but I think if we are going to satisfy the skills shortage then we need to look offshore,” says Barnett. “When you look at the health industry and construction industry then they are both doing this now. Now SMEs need to do the same thing.”