Bridging the gaps in NZ’s technology job market
New Zealand has a dire shortage of candidates in technology and digital, one of NZ’s fastest-growing sectors. The growth is nothing short of incredible, and I believe that demand for candidates is going to be far higher than what recent reports predict.
So, what can NZ hiring managers do to combat this shortage? I have some suggestions, but first a little context.
The state of play in the IT sector
According to the NZ Tech Industry Association, there are more than 28,000 companies employing more than 100,000 people in IT – 5% of NZ’s workforce – and the number is steadily growing on a daily basis.
In 2015, the output of these companies was worth NZ$32 billion, which translated as $16.2 billion of the nation’s gross domestic product and equated to a whopping 8% of NZ’s economy.
When I started in recruitment in New Zealand 11 years ago, about 42,000 people were employed in technology. This means that the technology job market has increased by an average of 5,300 jobs a year since that time.
At this level of growth, at least 160,000 people will be employed in IT by 2027. As well as reduced demand for traditional roles, such as system administrators, systems engineers, legacy systems developers and on-site IT support people, we will see an increase in demand for experienced DevOps and SysOps engineers, iOS and Android developers, open source and full stack developers, and so on.
We are also seeing more emphasis on and demand for capability, such as design, user experience and disciplines including SEO and SEM, digital strategy and prototyping. Eleven years ago, these disciplines weren’t in high demand and if they were, they have been rebranded for the modern digital era (ASP vs Cloud for example).
Reasons for the tech shortage
There are a number of reasons why NZ is experiencing such a serious shortage of IT job candidates:
- The demand for technology and digital talent has increased in-line with the rise of the smartphone and tablet. Web consumption through mobile devices increases almost exponentially year-on-year. Everything is now product, app, design and user experience-driven. It is no longer good enough to have something that just works (Green Screen, MS-DOS, etc). It needs to look marketable, user-friendly and, most importantly, be a platform to realise a commercial outcome.
- We are at a tipping point where the investment in physical infrastructure on premise is shifting to cloud-based solutions, be that public cloud or in-country private cloud offerings. This is because people now understand the risks around security and data sovereignty, and the level of risk is now acceptable given the efficiencies, productivity and cost benefits that can be realised.
- While some schools have a technology program, it is still not consistent throughout NZ’s education system. There needs to be a significant overhaul of the curriculum to focus on technology and digital disciplines from an early age. Not every student is interested, but if they are, it needs to be recognised early, nurtured and developed.
- Those who do go into this field often go travelling as soon as they finish their studies. They often end up in the UK or elsewhere in Europe and spend their intermediate years (generally on a lower salary) learning and refining their craft through to the senior level. Hence New Zealand’s gap at the intermediate level.
- The war for talent in this sector is global. We are competing against global companies that can offer more money for the same work.
Recruitment strategies to attract tech talent
The sector is evolving, and businesses need to evolve and continually stay connected to the way the industry and companies in New Zealand are transforming.
Here are some key things hiring managers can do or focus on to support employers:
- Explore the NZ Immigration-accredited employer process. If you are struggling to attract the right capability from the local talent pool, this is a great way to expedite the hiring of offshore talent. If you are an accredited employer, the efficiency of the visa application process makes you far more attractive to offshore talent.
- Spend more time understanding and if you don’t have one, developing your employee value proposition (EVP) and the benefits New Zealand can offer from a culture, work/life balance and New Zealand lifestyle perspective. These factors will quite often override a larger salary.
- Make an effort to further understand the relocation and other benefits employers offer market-wide to remain competitive. These could include relocation allowance, settlement services, elocution lessons, business writing, English courses and accommodation for a fixed period on arrival.
- Understand your business and technology roadmap and the talent implications of company growth and the need to scale technology. Seek out information around disciplines available onshore versus those you will have to look to the global market to find. You will then be in a great position to develop a robust talent attraction strategy.
- Research and demystify the perceived difficulty of offshore hiring. Work closely with NZ Immigration, making it your business to understand what is possible and the best way to get the outcome you are looking for when targeting offshore talent.