Faced with a 30,000 worker shortfall, particularly among plumbers, electricians, engineers, builders and project managers, the Government yesterday set out its broad plans to reduce that gap.
To start with, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway proposed changes which would make it easier for the building and construction industry to employ workers from overseas and support the KiwiBuild programme as a result.
Based on the "successful approach to speeding up the Christchurch rebuild", these time-limited changes are part of a broader Construction Skills Strategy (see below), led by the Minister for Building & Construction, Jenny Salesa which are designed to address the industry's medium- and long-term shortfall
In this respect, Minister Salesa is leading a Ministerial Group on the Construction Workforce, which has developed a Construction Skills Action Plan and is inviting input from the construction sector on "possible solutions to the enormous challenge of tackling the shortage of skills in construction in New Zealand”.
Part of the plan, as revealed by RNZ yesterday, may involve a poorly-named "Dole for apprenticeships" strategy, along with four other key initiatives:
The first part of Minister Lees-Galloway's KiwiBuild-related proposals is a "KiwiBuild Skills Shortage List" (which replaces the KiwiBuild Visa scheme) allowing building and construction firms to go through a quicker process to get skilled workers they can’t recruit locally.
It also involves a streamlined process to ensure firms which have "good employment practices and a commitment to employ local workers" can be "pre-approved" to bring in workers from overseas.
Additionally, it's proposed that labour hire companies wanting to recruit from overseas would need accreditation to minimise the risk of them exploiting migrant workers and undercutting the wages and conditions of New Zealand workers.