Building a new bridge over a port is a complex task that becomes difficult if not enough people are available to do it.
The head of the New Zealand construction company McConnell Dowell, Fraser Wyllie, sees a crisis in his industry.
“This is a critical issue and it needs critical attention,” he says.
He is one of many big industry bosses begging for a solution to the labor shortage.
“It’s the worst in 60 years,” adds Wyllie.
Unemployment is near a record low, which means that there are not enough people looking for a job.
Many apprentices get to know the tools, but the industry lacks the experienced staff to train them. And construction companies are already paying their employees up to 30 percent more – a price that some say is crippling.
A report received from Newshub shows that there are currently more than 3,000 construction jobs advertised.
66 percent of new hiring companies say no one has applied in New Zealand.
“We realized we had entered the New Zealand market,” said Helen Davidson, CEO of ACE.
“We look at roles such as professional services, i.e. engineering and architecture, from site managers to building owners.”
The government has allocated 60 places in managed isolation hotels for construction workers each month, but the industry says the immigration process is too difficult to fill as some companies have to apply multiple times.
“The system is very difficult to work through at the moment. We have a three-phase system where you get a border exemption, then a visa and then an MIQ office,” says Peter Silcock, CEO of Civil Contractors NZ.
The industry has asked the government:
Immigration assistance in the process
The inclusion of construction occupations in the list of “approved working classes”
And a lowering of the salary threshold for work visas from $ 100,000 to around $ 80,000
“We’d really like to see action now that will help us get the workforce we need,” says Davidson.
Because without them, the construction industry has a warning.
“We will not be able to fulfill the government’s agenda,” says Silcock.
That means schools, hospitals and houses cannot be built as quickly as the government promised.