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NZ IT industry must look to domestic talent to ease skill shortage

New Zealand cannot expect overseas information technology (IT) workers to rescue it from staff shortages, the leader of a newly-enlarged technology group says.

The New Zealand Technology Industry Association (NZTech) and Canterbury Software Cluster have agreed to work together on issues like major IT job vacancies.

NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller said the country needed to produce more of its own recruits. In a 2013 survey, the group found New Zealand had 10,000 IT  vacancies in a workforce of 124,000.

About 2500 IT students graduated from from New Zealand universities each year.

“Ultimately, we can’t hope to be a world-leading nation if we import all our staff,” Muller said.

The shortage of IT staff was global. The United States needed more than 1 million IT graduates in the next two years and Europe was short of more than 800,000.

Most major tech-minded nations were trying to recruit from countries like Brazil, Russia, Ukraine and Pakistan.

“We’re always going to need them from offshore but if you just think about all the different careers that are going to disappear and all the new ones that are coming, they are all going to be tech-based.”

IT needed many more women.

In 2013 just 3 per cent of 15-year-old girls in New Zealand were interested in careers in technology.

Women made up about 23 per cent of the current industry workforce here, Muller said.

This was despite a sharp rise in the total number of university IT graduates.

Ministry of Education figures show the number of students completing computer science or information systems degrees grew from 760 in 2007 to 1130 in 2013.

At that time the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) put the cost of study at about $18,000.

The estimated income rose from $41,000 in the first year of work to $62,000 in the third.

In 2014, MBIE estimated the average income for business and systems analysts, including software developers, was $79,000.

Christchurch-based IT recruiter Michelle Bishop said some city businesses were finding staff among visitors on working holidays and the partners of post-graduate tertiary students, particularly University of Canterbury.

In the second half of 2015, her company, Sourced, had recruited nearly half of its permanent placements in the region from overseas.

Sourced had only anecdotal evidence for the partners of university students finding work in the region but the job link was real, she said.

Sourced had recruited Eduardo Canha, a 40-year old Brazilian web designer whose wife, Fernanda Zimmermann had started post-doctoral studies at Otago University School of Medicine.

Canha lived in New Zealand for a year in 2001 and convinced Zimmermann to return join with him in September.

The couple had previously spent three years in England, where Canha was a web designer and Zimmermann worked at Cambridge University.

Canha said  he had an impression from his new employer, Montage Interactive that Kiwi IT workplaces were “less cold, less serious” than in Britain.

The chief executive at Montage Interactive had surprised him with an invitation to dinner to meet his family, while the company had also put on a Christmas dinner and a staff lunch.

“It’s way more like a family company rather than a corporate company.”

Good English had helped him to settle, unlike some other Brazilians and other foreigners he had met in the city who had limited job prospects, like washing dishes, in construction or working on farms.

A downsides to moving to New Zealand was the cost of living. “I think I’m earning more if I convert pounds to New Zealand dollars but there’s less buying power in New Zealand,” Canha said.


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