The engineering and consulting sector continues to be optimistic about the future but there are concerns that a lack of specialist staff will affect their ability to deliver critical projects for New Zealand.
Association of Consulting Engineers New Zealand (ACE) chief executive Helen Davidson says the shortage of specialist staff sits across large market sectors, such as water and transport.
“Because consulting and engineering activity largely occurs before construction begins, if we can’t access the right talent now, we’ll see significant downstream effects, including to the cost and time to complete projects, and overall quality,” Davidson says.
Her comments follow the release of a new report, Consulting and Engineering Sector — Personnel Challenges — The Ongoing Impact of Covid-19.
ACE NZ has prepared the report from data collected during a survey of members in January and February 2021.
The survey found 68% of firms either have concerns or are unsure whether they will be able to recruit enough suitably qualified staff to meet current and future resource needs.
Twenty-five percent of firms have experienced challenges attempting to bring suitably qualified staff into New Zealand.
“The ability to recruit specialist talent from overseas is key to many firms’ strategies to address the skills shortage, and sits alongside investing in upskilling the existing market,” Davidson says.
“We all know that our border control measures are a critical pillar of New Zealand’s Covid-19 elimination strategy, and we accept that means different steps are now required to get people into the country to join our workforce.
“But our border strategy needs to make it easier for specialist skills that are critical to Aotearoa’s infrastructure stimulus to be sought.”
Other results from the survey were:
• Skills shortages: The survey revealed that the recruitment of intermediate to senior people with 10 years-plus experience and those holding, or with the ability to gain, chartered status or equivalent is exceptionally challenging.
• Staff shortages are critical for civil engineers at intermediate to senior level, structural engineers at intermediate to senior level, geotechnical engineers at senior level, draughtspeople, designers and technicians at intermediate to senior level, and fire engineers at intermediate to senior level.
• Families are important: People with the skills required to fill these specialist positions are likely to bring their families with them for the duration of the contract.
That would require up to 1150 MIQ places to be reserved for the consulting and engineering sector over the next 12 months.