Shortage Of Construction Professionals In NZ

Posted by on 21 April 2017

contruction workersLooking around the nation at the major infrastructure projects in the pipeline in all major centres, the housing problems in Auckland, the rapidly changing skyline in Wellington, the ongoing ramifications of the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes and more recently widespread flooding in Edgecumbe, it’s not difficult to understand the noticeable surge in construction activity here in New Zealand.

Although beneficial to New Zealand’s economy, the rapid increase in nationwide construction projects has placed a strain on the availability of skilled construction workers. More specifically, construction professionals like project managers, quantity surveyors, architects, engineers, site managers, supervisors, leading hands, construction managers and qualified carpenters - placing them in high demand.

Where Are Construction Workers Needed?

Although most noticeable in the main centres, the substantial construction market growth is affecting the regions as well with the Queenstown Lakes district, Otago, the Waikato and Bay of Plenty experiencing an increasing need for qualified construction professionals.

Auckland however, continues to be the front runner with residential building activity hitting “building boom” proportions. Driven largely by population growth, new homes are in high demand along with the need for fast tracking proposed infrastructure projects like the Inner City Rail Link and the 18.5 km Puhoi-Wellsford Motorway. According to the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s report on the “Future Demand For Construction Workers” published mid 2016, Auckland’s residential and non-residential building activity is forecast to increase by pretty significant levels through to 2021.

The Christchurch Rebuild comes in a close second with the focus now shifting from residential repairs and rebuilds to more commercial buildings and projects within the town centre. A steady decline to pre-earthquake levels is to be expected as phases of the rebuild are completed.

Wellington also faces increased building activity but to a lesser extent, with residential and non-residential building still experiencing steady growth but spread over the longer term. Major commercial projects in the pipeline are the International Conference Centre and Movie Museum along with several hotels and apartment blocks.

How Do We Get More Skilled Construction Professionals?

Lower living costs and greater lifestyle benefits have meant attracting construction workers to the smaller regions can sometimes be easier. But with such a nationwide shortage of qualified building professionals, all building companies face the never ending struggle of finding and keeping, good staff, with many forced to look offshore in order to fill crucial roles.

With experienced construction professionals in such high demand and the expectation of continued growth in the sector, the construction industry needs to look to strategies for meeting future staffing needs and training requirements. Bridging the skills gap has brought about suggestions of encouraging more apprenticeships and upskilling existing workers, along with an investment in tertiary education courses and providers.

What Exactly Are Employers Of Construction Workers Looking For?

  • Experience tops the list, ideally within medium to large sized building companies.
  • Qualifications at either degree or diploma level.
  • Motivated individuals with a good track record.
  • Leadership skills backed by good technical knowledge.

What Does This Mean For The Future Of The Construction Industry In NZ?

The need for degree qualified training in many of the high demand construction positions has in turn placed pressure on tertiary training organisations throughout New Zealand. The University of Auckland is set to invest $280 million in an engineering facility scheduled to open in 2019 in order to cope with the expected growth.

It is expected new graduates will not only be attracted by the promise of good job opportunities but by competitive salaries as well. Much wider career development opportunities will lead to successful long term career prospects within the construction sector.

However there is no quick-fix one size fits all approach. Many degree options span at least four years and with strong demand set to continue largely due to the major infrastructure, land development and commercial building projects scheduled over the coming years, the construction industry faces some big challenges in sourcing the required numbers of skilled workers needed in the housing, industrial and commercial building markets.

Consequently the forecast for career opportunities in the construction industry and the boom in demand for skilled professional’s looks set to provide potentially lucrative career options for those interested in entering the construction industry.