Skills list to help trades shortage

Iain Lees-Galloway
Iain Lees-Galloway
Employers in the building and construction industry will find it easier to employ workers overseas, although they still may have to wait six months or more before government plans are in place.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said yesterday the Government was proposing changes to make it easier for the building and construction industry.

As part of the Construction Skills Strategy, led by Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa, the Government proposed measures including a streamlined process, to bring in labour to help build houses, transport links and other infrastructure.

Labour hire companies wanting to recruit from overseas would have to be accredited to reduce the risks of those companies exploiting migrant workers and consequently undercutting the wages and conditions of New Zealand workers, Mr Lees-Galloway said.

It was estimated New Zealand was 30,000 workers short - particularly plumbers, electricians, engineers, builders and project managers - meaning the changes were needed.

''This is a broader, more comprehensive and quicker approach for the construction sector to get the skilled worker it needs than the ''KiwiBuild visa'' proposed last year.

''It's clear we need workers to be available more quickly. These proposals aim to speed up the process and circumvent the need to create a new visa category.''

Otago-Southland Employers Association chief executive Virginia Nicholls supported keeping immigration processes open and responsive as a way to address skill and labour requirements.

However, she warned immigration measures must be addressed in conjunction with improving the education and skill system, including strengthening skills and vocational training pathways.

''There are many reviews occurring but action is also required now. We look forward to the Government progressing its regional approaches to addressing skill shortages.''

On the specific proposals, Mrs Nicholls said it needed to be easier to get occupations on to the skill shortage list for all firms and industry.

The streamlined pre-approval model should be extended to other sectors, including the Otago-Southland region which was experiencing significant growth and skill and labour shortages.

''There needs to be a better way of aligning industry and company investment cycles with confidence so that they can access the skills they need to execute their business plan.''

Employers still had to get approval every 12 months from Immigration NZ to access people, she said.

It would be much better if Immigration NZ took a client relationship management approach with those sorts of businesses.

The Employers Association would like to see the KiwiBuild visa become available to other sectors- such as aged care, the service sector and high-value manufacturing, Mrs Nicholls said.

''We look forward to the Government progressing its regional approaches to skills shortages.''

National Party MPs Judith Collins and Michael Woodhouse laid into Mr Lees-Galloway's plans, calling them ''Labour's xenophobic hypocrisy laid bare''.

''Labour's reprehensible demonisation of foreigners prior to the election has been laid bare by confirmation today its promise to slash migration was nothing but a cynical attempt to win voters from New Zealand First,'' the two MPs said in a statement.

At a glance

• A KiwiBuild skills shortage list to provide an expedited process to fill specific roles for where demand exceeds domestic supply

• An employer accreditation or alternative pre-approval model for the construction sector to provide certainty and flexibility for employers who exhibit good practices to recruit overseas workers

• Specific requirements to accredit labour hire companies to manage the risk of worker exploitation and the potential of undercutting of wages and conditions of New Zealand workers

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