SEEK Employment Trends: spotlight on the trades and services industry

With a robust construction industry and a funding boost for apprenticeships, it’s little surprise that New Zealand’s trades and services sector is experiencing growth.

The latest data from SEEK Employment Trends shows an increase in job ads for roles such as plumbers, carpenters and electricians; however, experts warn that employers now face greater responsibility when it comes to managing workplace risks.

Health and safety are firmly on the agenda across New Zealand. The Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA), which came into effect from 4 April this year, has shifted the focus from monitoring and recording health and safety incidents to proactively identifying and managing risks in order to promote the health of New Zealand workers.

Lindsey Monroe Ruth, Head of Marketing for recruitment firm Adecco in Australia and New Zealand, says the new legislation has placed the trades and services sector in the spotlight. “We’ve been looking very closely at the new legislation and explaining to our clients how it impacts them,” she says. “Over the past two to three months, it has been a key area of focus for our New Zealand team.”

Janice McNab, General Manager at recruitment firm Tradestaff, says the best employers were well-prepared for the legislative changes and have welcomed the greater focus on risk prevention. “One of the biggest hurdles around the trades industry is making people understand that they have a voice in health and safety and that it’s actually OK to point out things that aren’t happening as they ought to.”


Construction fuels growth

According to Jason Walker, Managing Director of recruitment firm Hays in New Zealand, the growth in New Zealand’s construction industry is playing a key role in the demand for skilled tradespeople.

“Most regions in New Zealand are experiencing increased residential activity, while the unprecedented investment in commercial construction and transport projects across Auckland is adding to the significant skills shortage,” says Walker. “The trades and services market is becoming tight as employers compete for skilled candidates.”

A skills shortage has been experienced across a range of trade-based roles, such as plumbers and electricians; however, the additional government funding of $14.4 million over four years for more apprenticeship training announced in the 2016 Budget may help reverse this. While there were more than 42,000 people enrolled in apprenticeships and apprenticeship training in 2015, this funding is expected to help support another 5500 apprentices by 2020.



Skills of the trade

The latest data from SEEK shows that the average advertised salary for the trades and services industry in July 2016 was $59,610. SEEK job ads for electricians were up by 14% year-on-year from May–July 2016. McNab says there is a shortage of good candidates for these roles. “If we suddenly had a dozen electricians land on our doorstep with New Zealand qualifications, we’d have jobs for every single one of them,” she says.



SEEK job ads for plumbers experienced an even greater increase in job ads, growing by 40% over the same period.

“Plumbers are also needed due to the high levels of new builds and refurbishments in Auckland,” says Walker. “Companies are competing with each other to hold onto staff and, given the shortage of candidates, plumbers can demand higher rates. Employers are starting to consider paying a little bit more, within reason, in order to secure the labour they need. Employers are also relying on us for temporary candidates in order to increase and decrease staff levels in response to workloads.”

SEEK job ads for labourers increased by 16% year-on-year from May–July 2016, while job ads for carpentry and cabinetmaker roles were up by 5%. Walker says there is a shortage in supply of skilled workers in this area. “As always, rates can be a stumbling block, since carpenters can demand more money in response to the amount of work available,” he notes.



Trends across the regions

Auckland’s skyline is dotted with cranes and the region is leading the way in terms of residential construction. “If you look out the window in the city, you can see cranes everywhere and that’s usually a good indication,” says a spokesperson from operations, maintenance and construction services organisation, Broadspectrum.

“A lot of the construction that we do at the moment is related to existing long-term contracts within telecommunications to roll out optic fibre, so there aren’t big spikes in recruitment for these projects, but certainly things like commercial and residential construction are having an impact.”

Walker says Auckland is seeing a growing demand for skilled tradespeople.Residential companies are busier than ever and are growing their teams,” he says. “Some candidates are moving to the Bay of Plenty due to the number of residential developments there, as well as for a lifestyle change, which adds to the shortage of necessary construction skills. Commercial construction is also very active, with new names entering the market and stretching the workforce.”

As the rebuild of the commercial sector in Christchurch continues, Walker notes trade skills are in demand. “The number of commercial projects valued above $5 million is increasing and with large high-profile projects underway, certain skills are in high demand.”

While noting that Wellington’s construction market is not as strong as that of Auckland or Christchurch, Walker adds that a growing number of civil and residential projects are underway in the region. “The market is moving forward slowly with a number of large private and government commercial construction projects either underway or announced.”

According to experts, overall the trades and services industry is being buoyed by New Zealand’s robust construction industry. While a skills shortage exists within key trades, new funding is designed to boost apprenticeship numbers. “Parents, students, employers and job-seekers should recognise the benefits of an apprenticeship,” says Walker. “For employers, they close the skills deficit and create sustainable skill pipelines.”



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