When we talk about the need for foreign workers in the construction industry, it’s often assumed we’re talking about labourers. If New Zealand is going to keep building new houses, we need to keep encouraging unskilled workers to come over to New Zealand and make their way up to tradie status.
While manual labourers undoubtedly play a huge part in building New Zealand’s future, the labour shortage is even more visible in the professional strands of the building industry.
As quantity surveyors, we were stoked to see the launch of the new recruitment website LookSee Build New Zealand today, because it’s dedicated to bringing qualified engineers, quantity surveyors, project managers to New Zealand.
Building Industry Federation chief executive Bruce Kohn has said that the shortages in these professionals are contributing to blow-out costs on projects, and sometimes contractors are not taking jobs because they can’t guarantee the staff to fulfil a job.
"There are real pressures both in terms of procurers who seek to nail down the costs of the job at an early time," Kohn says. "I think everybody is working literally as hard as they can to get the supply of housing [up]... but there is simply a limited number of skilled workers."
By 2022, New Zealand needs around 56,000 extra workers from all skill levels in the construction industry, and around 20,000 of them need to come from overseas.
Luckily for us, quantity surveying is becoming a more popular career choice across the world, including in New Zealand. Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec) estimates around an 80 per cent increase in students choosing quantity surveying courses. It’s also an area of building that is seeing more and more women get involved.
“Numbers are still not even, but the number of females studying quantity surveying has progressed well compared to other building technology courses. We have some fantastic female quantity surveyors out there who are role models for people considering quantity surveying as a career,” says WelTec’s engineering associate head Malcolm Fair.
Quantity surveying, like other professional building jobs, is said by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment to have a “winning combination” of draw points: it has high job prospects, high income, and reasonable study fees.
Whether they come from Dunedin or Dubai, attracting skilled workers remains a hot topic in this industry.