There are interesting forces at play in the Engineering market in Auckland. In a skyline littered with tower cranes, one of the major obstacles that stands in the way of the city’s ambitious growth plans is a lack of talent, especially at the crucial intermediate engineer level.
The Kiwi way has always been to study, work for a few years accruing experience before embarking on the overseas experience, a right of passage to see the world and experience some of what it has to offer. While this is undoubtedly the time of many young Kiwis’ lives, it leaves a large, hard-to-fill hole in the workforce.
In the world of consulting engineers, the Intermediate Engineer is a crucial cog in the wheel of any good business. Intermediate Engineers are often the doers within a consultancy, who pound for pound often pack the most punch but they are all heading overseas.
So where is the talent going to come from?
New Zealand has a very unique set of circumstances that make conditions here different to engineering anywhere else in the world. Due to natural disaster earthquakes, a topical subject here, we struggle to get people who can slot straight in to the environment, or, to use a favourite client saying “to hit the ground running”. The New Zealand codes are unique as a building will have to be able to withstand an earthquake of certain strength in order to gain approval for construction. Countries that are culturally similar to New Zealand don’t have earthquakes, and those that are seismically active are culturally different and more often don’t speak English as a first language.
On top of this, the fact that New Zealand is a tiny Island at the bottom of the world far from overseas candidates’ family and friends means there is huge risk (and expense) in bringing them to New Zealand. When or if candidates do relocate to New Zealand, consultancies’ resources are further tied up in bringing them up to speed with local building standards and codes, further exasperating the lack of resource in the short term at least, which unfortunately is as far as a lot of people can look.
So what of taking more graduates and training them in-house? Unfortunately the same problem exists, with a lack of people and lack of time to give the graduates the knowledge they need to develop. They also need more to come through the university system; Auckland University put an extra $42 million in to their Engineering school in 2012, meaning those graduates should be entering the market next year. We will wait with bated breath to see the results.
So how do we solve the skills shortage? The answer from me on this is I don’t know, but what I do know is that for Engineers already in New Zealand with local experience, it has never been a better time to be in your position with a huge number of opportunities existing for those brave enough to chase them.
Article written by James Stevenson, Engineering Recruiter, Cobalt Recruitment
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