Facing a Candidate Shortage in an Industry Boom

This won’t come as a revelation; New Zealand’s construction industry is facing a striking candidate supply-demand crisis. Yes, there is a shortage of skilled staff employers face when looking for hiring new talent to expand their businesses.

As a nation, we’re currently in the middle of the largest construction boom in 40 years, described as ‘unprecedented’ and tipped to last for at least the next 6 years[1].

As the Christchurch rebuild starts to wind down, the flow back has resulted in increased residential demand throughout the country, particularly in Auckland, Wellington and the Waikato. The 2016 Budget has included approx. $358m for construction; namely social housing. Similarly, other commercial and civil work, such as clusters of multi-million-dollar retirement village developments, are well underway throughout our major cities in anticipation for the aging ‘baby boomer’ population.

All of this growth and development activity should provide the perfect opportunity for our construction industry to flourish and grow, but a shortage of staff – and in particular, a shortage of apprenticeships – has created “cut-throat” competition for talent.

But why is this the case when the BCITO lists their largest career-seeking audience as the 406,000 kiwi ‘millennials’[2], with 186,000 of them actively considering their career options right now?

Recognising this abundance of potential talent, the NZ Government has committed $28.6m towards attracting and training more apprentices for trades over the next four years. There is also a particular focus on developing our female workforce who are largely under-represented within the construction industry[3].

Although these studies are directly relating to carpentry and other blue-collar trade apprenticeships, I would personally like to see more females entering Quantity Surveying, Site Management and Commercial Project Management cadetships.

Time will tell whether the Governments directed focus results in a tangible increase in these areas to provide us with a skilled workforce, that will enable our industry can continue to grow from strength-to-strength.

However for now, I think we can be sure of three things;

  1. Employers can continue to expect fierce competition to attract and retain the best talent within a scarce market; and
  2. Employees with the most sought-after skills and capabilities can expect more interest during their job searching experience and potentially, as well as more opportunity to advance their careers and skillset.
  3. On-the-job training programs and public-private initiatives will help ‘close the gap’, but other recruiting and staffing solutions will be increasingly necessary.

[1] http://www.buildersbase.co.nz/#!NZ-Construction-Boom-Tipped-for-next-Six-Years/c1kod/55c126260cf265ef515e7a54

[2] BCITO Annual Report 2015

[3] http://www.newshub.co.nz/politics/budget-funding-for-trades-training-2016051915#axzz49cVwdC00