The great NZ skills shortage (and some possible solutions!).



Despite a tightening economy and high inflation, New Zealand’s unemployment rate is at record low levels. Many organisations could be doing better if it wasn’t for a huge shortage of skilled people. The healthcare sector is desperately short on nurses, doctors and caregivers. Many big infrastructure projects are falling behind schedule as the construction industry struggles to find more engineers, builders and project managers. Post-Covid, countries like Australia and the UK are luring skilled New Zealanders offshore with better pay and opportunities for permanent residency.


Two years of border closures have certainly made an already difficult situation worse. Still, there is hope on the horizon as Immigration NZ begins to loosen the restrictions and businesses can hire migrants through the Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme. There are some conditions attached to the scheme:

  • You need to be accredited with INZ

  • You need to provide evidence that you advertised the job in NZ (if it pays less than twice the median wage or is not on the Green List)

  • You must have an acceptable job offer and employment agreement

The Green List is a more focused version of the long-term and regional skills shortage lists and identifies jobs that offer a fast-tracked ‘Straight to Residence’ pathway.


There are ways to combat skills shortages without the complexities of offshore recruitment and migrant sponsorship. One option is to upskill your existing staff and invest in on-the-job training. Giving your employees the opportunities to retrain or update their skills comes with a cost, but the benefits include:

  • Training that is tailored to your organisation’s needs

  • Employees that stay longer and are happier in their work

  • Pathways for career progression that will attract new talent


Another option if you are struggling to find the right people is to look outside the traditional talent pools for your industry. Mature workers are an under-utilised group, often overlooked or subject to age-related discrimination. Ironically, employers may view mature workers as ‘over-qualified’ and assume they would get bored in the role on offer. But in many cases, an older person is looking for less demanding work—they just want to stay active and enjoy the social connections that employment provides.


The New Zealand Government recently introduced the Older Workers Employment Action Plan to help those over 50 to find sustainable work. Fifty per cent of those aged between 65 to 69 are still working—in many cases, they have no choice but to keep working to cover increased living costs. A more flexible approach from employers around work arrangements for mature jobseekers could be one way to ease skills shortages. The valuable life experience they bring to an organisation can have many additional benefits that can enrich your workplace culture.


Industry groups could ensure a better long-term outcome for the NZ economy by providing better support for young people in secondary and tertiary education. By providing vocational guidance on career paths such as apprenticeships, we can avoid future skills shortages and make better use of the nation’s workforce.



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