With Aotearoa’s border reopening plan getting underway this week, many employers in the professional services consulting sector will be breathing a sigh of relief. We caught up with Ben Tinker, Head of International Solutions at HainesAttract, to find out what the lifting of restrictions could mean for New Zealand-based companies, and how to attract international talent in 2022.
The construction sector has been hit particularly hard by closed borders as it faces a skills shortage that cannot be addressed by the local market alone.
In July 2021, ACE New Zealand undertook research that showed there were 3,229 current vacancies across 135 firms, with 90% of firms having difficulty recruiting in New Zealand.
Six months later, this is still the case, says Ben.
“Our talent shortage is different to the rest of the world’s. Our economy recovered quickly while our border remained largely closed, which resulted in the record low unemployment figures we see today.”
How will the border reopening plan improve the situation?
“In simplest terms, the border changes will extend the talent market, which will be a relief for the sector,” says Ben.
From 13 March, skilled workers with job offers paying at least 1.5 times the median wage will be able to enter without having to show their skills aren’t ‘readily obtainable’ in New Zealand.
“This will make things simpler for candidates and companies,” says Ben.
New Zealand remains an attractive proposition globally due to lifestyle opportunities and the country’s handling of COVID-19, says Ben, who emigrated from the UK in 2020.
However, some education is needed in terms of the professional opportunities for people here, especially given the competition New Zealand faces from other countries, such as Canada, that have opened borders earlier.
“New Zealand businesses are in a great position to recruit offshore specialists, but I don’t believe that the overseas talent market is fully aware of the opportunities for professional development that exist here.
“We are a small market, even our largest employers are not well known outside of the Oceania region. Plus, a lot has changed in New Zealand in the last few years, so we need to keep educating and managing candidates’ expectations and perceptions.”
There is also the risk that Kiwis will flock overseas when the borders reopen.
“It’s a Kiwi rite of passage,” says Ben, one that might be even more prevalent after two years of the pandemic.
“HainesAttract undertook research in November 2021 to establish the likelihood of people currently living in New Zealand moving overseas. Nearly 30 percent of people said they would consider moving overseas when the opportunity arose, with Australia the top choice.”
What’s more, overseas employers are coming for our talent.
“We found that 36 percent of respondents in the construction and engineering sector had been approached by an overseas employer in the last six months. This is going to be a massive challenge for the sector.”
So, what to do if you are looking to recruit internationally in 2022?
Be prepared (and confident)
For Ben, the border reopening plan should give employers the confidence to start the international hiring process.
“Clarity equals confidence, and we feel the new measures will help employers embrace the process to hire internationally with more comfort.
“Work with your talent acquisition, employer brand and immigration partners to identify the skill gaps that meet the skilled migrant visa category,” advises Ben.
Simplify your processes so you can be ready to hire offshore talent as soon as the border restrictions are lifted.
“I would urge businesses to keep their processes as simple as possible, to take advantage of this change.”
Tell your story
Develop your story – what’s the unique thing you offer as an employer, how you will support and help people grow in a new country?
“A compelling and genuine story that helps people make an informed choice about your business will put you ahead of others and help define what New Zealand has to offer,” says Ben.
“Take that story to the international market, with digital and social adverts and dedicated pages on your careers website.”
Go beyond advertising
Engaging with international candidates will make a huge difference, says Ben.
“For obvious reasons, people considering an overseas move have many questions that range from professional to immigration, to personal.
“This can take time and expert knowledge, so many businesses rightly chose to outsource. Candidates who feel included and informed are far more likely to make the move.”
HainesAttract is running monthly webinars for its international candidates throughout 2022.
“The January event included a lively Q&A section, many of the questions were around the skills required and the cultural realities of living and working in New Zealand.
“Our February event is about what is happening in the construction sector in Aotearoa, and we have more than 300 candidates registered to attend.
“We know that the interest in New Zealand remains,” says Ben. “It’s on us to connect those candidates with the right employer and help make the transition as smooth as possible.”