Tight Nelson labour market a headache for employers

The tight labour market continues to sting employers in the Nelson region, with a soaring number of job adverts and some companies forced to cope with significant staff shortages.

The job hunter's market means work-ready people in the Nelson region can easily secure employment, sometimes with an immediate start, one recruitment agency boss says.

The Seek NZ Employment Report for February shows the Nelson region had a record level of job adverts on seek.co.nz for the second month running. The number of job listings on the website was up 6 per cent on January, while also being 53 per cent up when compared to February last year.

Listings had also nearly doubled from two years ago, up 94 per cent up on February 2019.

Sectors with the most job listings in the region were health/medical, manufacturing/transport/logistics, and trades and services.

However, the report noted that while job listings were up, nationally applications per advert fell by 9 per cent from January.

Richmond-based Nelson Labour Hire co-owner Al Hungerford said the labour situation in Nelson was the tightest he had seen it in the nine years he had been working in the temporary job market.

“Usually we’ll have three people coming in looking for work each day. Now we’ve got three people a week,” Hungerford said

“There’s just a straight shortage of workers out there.”

More employers, struggling to find staff themselves, were also approaching the agency seeking help to find workers, he said.

One company in the Nelson region looking for staff was 40 workers down for a day recently because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Hungerford said.

“We have lots of people looking for qualified staff. We pretty much tell them that any qualified staff can go to any work site in New Zealand and get a job immediately.

“We have people who walk in the door and we will literally say to them, ‘can you work today?’”

Previously a third of the agency’s workers were classed as in long term casual work, and two-thirds were casual workers, which gave it a big pool of casual workers, but now 70 per cent of its workers were in long term casual work.

Normally Nelson Labour Hire would have lots of backpackers seeking work at this time of year, but with New Zealand border restrictions “that’s non-existent at the moment”.

Production jobs, civil construction and general labouring were some of the areas most in need of workers, Hungerford said.

With the New Zealand border starting to reopen in stages this year, he expected it would be another six months before the supply of workers would rise in the Nelson region.

Seek NZ country manager Rob Clark said the gradual opening of the border meant “applications and people movement” would be a key factor to watch over the coming months.

“While the reopening of the international borders may be cause for some optimism as we can look forward to an influx of workers again for the first time in two years, there is the concern we will lose candidates to the lure of OE and overseas opportunities,” Clark said.

Kernohan Engineering human resources and health and safety manager Jim Thompson said the tight labour market in Nelson made it “fairly challenging” to recruit skilled tradespeople currently.

“It’s got tighter and tighter,” he said.

The Nelson company needed a few pipe welders, which was a specialised skill, plus some extra maintenance staff, Thompson said.

Accommodation shortages and high house prices in Nelson were among challenges for worker recruitment, with Kernohan Engineering missing out on a few potential workers from outside the region because they were deterred by the cost of accommodation, Thompson said.

The tight labour market was also creating pressure on companies to offer higher pay rates to secure staff, he said.

Kernohan, like a lot of businesses, was working on more creative solutions to attract staff “without adding heavily to our bottom line”. This included such things as flexible work hours.

“It’s challenging for tradespeople who need to be on site with the client to do the work.”

Kernohan Engineering was setting up a weekend shift in which staff could work 10-hour days Friday to Sunday at a client’s site, rather than working so much during the week.

It was also focussing on its apprenticeship intake, which didn’t solve immediate needs for workers but would help address staffing in the longer term, Thompson said.

Source: Stuff

Date: 18 March 2022

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Article from Stuff
March 18, 2022

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