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Do We Need 30,000 Skilled Migrants to Rebuild Canterbury?

"Christchurch Earthquake"

The Canterbury Employment and Skills Board (CESB) have now held two employment expos in Britain. The objective of the expos, held in Manchester and London, were to recruit the targeted 30,000 skilled migrants the CESB has determined that it will require rebuilding Canterbury over the next 10 years.

Meeting the Expectations of Skilled Migrants

For the skilled British migrant, Christchurch is an attractive destination given the sluggish European economies. However, Christchurch is no land of ‘milk and honey’ and Immigration New Zealand needs to establish realistic expectations for immigrants to Canterbury. What we are doing now is reminiscent of the New Zealand Company in 1800’s, making promises of free-land to all settlers to New Zealand, land that was not theirs to sell.

Until demolition work is finished, engineer’s reports have been written and city plans have been finalised there can be no guarantees of work for anyone migrating to Canterbury. Migrants could find themselves living in a wounded city with no prospect of work.

A Balance between Immigration and Taking Stock of Skills in the Country

From the Canterbury Tertiary College in Christchurch through to the Open Polytechnic in Lower Hutt, and Institutes of Technologies throughout New Zealand, New Zealand education facilities are promoting ‘Trades’ training on an unprecedented level. We run the risk of having our graduates unable to find work due to the influx of Migrants.

There is a balance required between opening the flood-gates to migrants and staging the recruitment of migrants as the rebuild progresses through its phases. It appears that the department of labour, (Immigration New Zealand), and CESB have jumped the gun, sending recruiters overseas before taking stock of the what is already happening in New Zealand. There are trade worker surpluses in other parts of the country, and young people coming out of apprentices and pre-trade courses that cannot find jobs. We have the opportunity to focus on training these people in skills that we have identified to be in shortage, before they are required for the rebuild.


How it’s Affecting Business

A Smith Cranes representative commented that Christchurch businesses struggled to keep staff during the recession, and were forced to let more go after the earthquake. Because businesses are cash-strapped, there will be a lag between when the work gets started and when these businesses will be ready to hire new employees. Many trade businesses are worse for wear and will need support readying themselves for future work. CESB, CERA and the government should shift their focus to assisting businesses in retaining employees, finding new employees who are willing to relocate to Canterbury and finding people from overseas with specific skills that are in shortage in New Zealand.

While there are skills that we will require to recruit from overseas it is too early to determine how many people we will need. Before the work starts it is local business that needs assistance maintaining their businesses and retaining staff. When the work starts to flow, business will then need help to find talent locally and internationally. With the government recruiting internationally now we run the risk of promising more than we can deliver and could end up disappointed migrants heading back home.

The Government needs to ensure that CERA, CESB, Department of Labour, (Immigration New Zealand), Ministry of Education and industry experts work together to  determine our worker requirements for the Canterbury rebuild before promising 30,000 migrants work.


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