SEEK Employment Trends: region spotlight on Otago

When it comes to tourism, Otago has it all. The adventure capital of New Zealand, it attracts thrill-seeking bungee jumpers, snowboarders and paragliders, and its pristine vineyards entice visitors to taste award-winning wine. With so much to offer, it’s no surprise that SEEK job ads for the region’s hospitality and tourism sector were up in June 2016.

SEEK job ads for the sector in Otago increased by 22% year-on-year. Richard Street, Account Director Client Solutions at recruitment firm Randstad, says demand for the sector is generally strong. “It has such wonderful wine regions,” he says. “When I think of the region, I think of pinot noir. It’s a Kiwi favourite. Central Otago is quite touristy and that drives a lot of careers down there.”

The hospitality and tourism sector was just one of the industries to experience year-on-year growth in SEEK job ads. Ads across the region increased by 19.8% compared to the same time last year. They have been strong relative to the past five years and have been increasing in recent months. “There’s good demand across the region,” says Karen Bardwell, Managing Director of Oyster Executive Recruitment in Dunedin.

A transient market

Tourism is one of the country’s largest export industries, accounting for 4.9% of GDP in the year ending March 2015. The Otago region is a major drawcard and Bardwell says the hospitality and tourism sector attracts a transient workforce to the region. “Otago is a beautiful place to live but the cost of housing is quite significant and this makes it cost prohibitive for a lot of people in hospitality and tourism,” she explains. “People in hospitality, in particular, earn not much more than the minimum wage. We have to rely more on travellers, which makes it very transient and therefore the job ad numbers go up.”

The HR and recruitment sector also experienced growth in Otago in June 2016, with SEEK job ads increasing by 140% year-on-year. Alison Gill, managing director of edenfx HSE Recruitment, says the growth may also be due to the transient nature of certain sectors of the workforce. “Otago is quite a transactional geographical location because of the amount of transient people in and out,” she says. “From an OH&S perspective, we’ve certainly been recruiting more people, particularly in the hospitality and tourism sector, because they are high-risk industries and need HR professionals across those areas.”

Otago’s construction sector also saw increases in June 2016, with SEEK job ads up by 40% year-on-year. Meanwhile, SEEK job ads for trades and services grew by 68% compared to the same time last year. “There are a number of big projects going on in Dunedin around the university and hospital,” says Bardwell. “The Christchurch earthquake sucked a lot of people from Dunedin to go and work on the rebuild and, therefore, when we do get big projects in Otago, we tend to have to rejuvenate ourselves in terms of resources.”

Otago’s legal sector also experienced year-on-year SEEK job ad growth, with an increase of 150%. “We’re not seeing increased demand for practice lawyers but there’s a significant shortage of legal executives and legal secretaries in the Otago region,” says Bardwell. “Businesses are trying to attract candidates from outside of the region.”

A decline in some sectors

The education and training sector in Otago saw a year-on-year decline of 36%; while engineering job ads declined by 28%; and farming, animals and conservation was down by 40%. “What we’re seeing in our regions is less reliance on the dairy cheque to support the economy and labour markets,” explains Janet Faulding, SEEK New Zealand General Manager.

Otago’s information and communications technology sector also experienced a year-on-year decline of 13%. “I think a lot of organisations were over-resourcing in this area a number of years ago and now businesses have matured in their understanding of what they need,” says Bardwell. “Yes, we still need ICT staff, but more self-sufficiency is also being built into companies.”

Despite a decline in some sectors, Otago has been recording increasing levels of SEEK job ads in recent months. While the region will always be regarded for its hospitality and tourism assets, other sectors are experiencing growth and they are certainly worth watching.

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