New Zealand’s untapped talent pool
By Rochelle Stewart-Allen, HOST Senior Manager New Zealand
In New Zealand, we have a long list of skill shortages that need to be filled to ensure we’re meeting the needs of our growing population.
We need more farmers (beef and dairy), arborists and market gardeners. We need construction managers, university lecturers, mechanical engineers, midwifes and nurses. We need bakers, builders, bricklayers, carpenters, joiners, mechanics and aged care workers.
As Immigration NZ says “some skills are in chronically short supply“.
When I read these types of lists, what immediately springs to mind is the number of resettled Kiwis living in New Zealand who I have personally met who have these skills from their home countries. Some have years’ of experience and high levels of expertise.
And yet very few, if any at all, are working in their chosen professionals. Instead many are unemployed – or under-employed – as cleaners, taxi drivers, teacher aides. I’m not talking about people who have just arrived here. These are people who have lived here for two years, five years, 10 years, 20 years. They have settled well into the country, rebuilt their lives here, have high levels of English. They are also usually giving back in voluntary roles as a thank you to New Zealand for offering them a life here.
There is something fundamentally wrong when 30% of the people we welcome to New Zealand as refugees have professional skills and qualifications, have permanent residency and full work rights, and yet are unable to find suitable work. Over the past 10 years we’ve welcomed 7,500 refugees, which means about 2,250 have tertiary credentials. These figures don’t include those who have gone on to gain New Zealand qualifications.
Yes, these newly resettled Kiwis may look different or sound different – maybe they wear a hijab or have a beard, maybe they dress differently, come from a different religion – and yet fundamentally they share what we all want. They want to build a stable, peaceful life for themselves and their families, to be independent and earn a wage that covers their living expenses with some left over, to educate their children and care for their families, to contribute positively to New Zealand’s future and ensure we continue to live in a harmonious and welcoming society.
What’s needed to match this group of people with jobs that match their skills and experience? HOST International has already launched the Refugee Talent job platform in New Zealand, following its success matching job seekers with suitable employers in Australia over the past two years.