Quake damage exacerbates scaffolder shortage

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The massive earthquake repair task facing New Zealand further highlights New Zealand’s acute shortage of the most highly skilled scaffolders, Scaffolding Access and Rigging New Zealand (SARNZ) chief executive Graham Burke says.

Mr Burke says the sector was already facing a serious shortage of Advanced level scaffolders — the industry’s highest qualification – and is calling for action from Immigration New Zealand.

“Many of the scaffolds required for industrial, commercial and civil sectors can only be constructed by someone with an Advanced scaffold certificate — that’s a legal requirement,” Mr Burke says.

“The sector was already in need of more Advanced scaffolders to meet construction sector demand. Our members are finding it impossible to recruit the additional Advanced scaffolders they needed.

“The major response needed to address damage from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake will make an already difficult situation worse.”

SARNZ has already called upon Immigration New Zealand to help alleviate the situation by adding Advanced level scaffolders to its List of Skilled Occupations as a matter of urgency.

“Scaffolding is currently included on Immigration’s Immediate Skills Shortage lists but not on its List of Skilled Occupations,” Mr Burke says.

“Adding Advanced scaffolders to the list would enable the most highly skilled scaffolders, including those already working here on visas, to have a path to residency as skilled migrants.

“Immigration New Zealand’s response is that the Advanced qualification isn’t an essential qualification for scaffolders. That’s incorrect — scaffolders are legally required to hold a Certificate of Competence for the appropriate class, and a number of scaffolds require an Advanced scaffold certificate.”

Mr Burke has written to Minister of Immigration Michael Woodhouse, outlining the problem.

“He replied that the MBIE relies on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZCO) to classify occupations and, at level four on the classification, scaffolding does not meet the threshold for skilled migrants.

“That’s not correct either. The Advanced qualification is equivalent to NCEA Level Five — which means it should fall into level two of ANZCO’s advanced range of qualifications in New Zealand.”

While employers may bring in migrant workers for occupations not listed on the skill shortage lists, provided suitable New Zealanders are not available, or through the Immigration NZ-approved Accredited Employers scheme, Mr Burke says that’s not an option for many smaller scaffolding businesses.

“Advanced level scaffolders are also essential to supervise and provide training for beginners, as well as upskilling Elementary and Intermediate level scaffolders,” Mr Burke says.

“We want to train home-grown scaffolders ourselves, and the industry is working hard to recruit trainees and raise awareness about the career opportunities the sector provides.”