Skills-hungry NZ offers airfare for UK construction professionals

With an infrastructure pipeline worth over a hundred billion dollars and Christchurch still rebuilding after the 2011 earthquake, New Zealand is so hungry for construction professionals it says it will pay the airfare of anyone who lands a job there.

Project managers, engineers, surveyors and designers will also be treated to quintessentially Kiwi experiences such as the Haka, an international cricket match, surfing and deep sea fishing if they turn up for a major jobs fair in February 2018.

The unprecedented charm offensive launched by government agencies and the entire construction sector comes as the country of some 4.7 million faces the biggest infrastructure and housing push in its history.

New Zealand needs 56,000 construction workers, including 2,200 senior and professional staff, to deliver NZ$125bn (US$88bn, £67bn) of infrastructure work over the next decade, a figure now tracking 23% above forecasts.

At the same time the country is embarking on the biggest housing push ever attempted, with 100,000 new homes slated for construction over the next three years.

Strategists are targeting the UK in particular because it is rich in talent while its construction sector is facing a downturn.

"We’ve united to solve a big problem for all of us and we’ve come to the UK because that is where some of the best global construction talent is," said Craig West of infrastructure firm Downer NZ, while publicising the initiative "LookSee Build NZ" this week.

Organisers of the jobs fair even tested the waters in the UK and found many professionals tempted to jump ship.

"We’ve conducted qualitative research into the UK construction industry and this shows the vast majority of respondents are interested in job opportunities in New Zealand," said Auckland Transport chief infrastructure officer Greg Edmonds. "More than 82% were prepared to pay their own travel and more than half were prepared to migrate within three months."

Recruiters hope to make an offer candidates can’t refuse by promising that applicants who do get a job as a result of LookSee Build NZ will have their airfares to New Zealand repaid.

These overtures from New Zealand may be unwelcome for the UK industry, however, as it is suffering from a skills shortage of its own.

LookSee Build NZ seeks project manager and supervisors, civil and traffic engineers, roading and tunnel engineers, commercial managers and quantity surveyors, design managers and surveyors, structural engineers and draughts people among a wide range of specialist construction roles.

More information is here.

Photograph: Image from a Royal New Zealand Air Force aerial surveillance of areas affected in Christchurch after the earthquake in February 2011 (New Zealand Defence Force)

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  1. Where is the job fair being held?

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