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New Zealand construction industry aims for 20,000 foreign workers

New Zealand construction companies are desperately searching overseas for enough builders to fill a shortage of home-grown candidates.

A group of private companies and public organisations, including Auckland Transport, are behind the new campaign, which aims to entice builders to immigrate to the country to meet the growing demand for construction workers.

The campaign - called LookSee Build - follows on from a similar project earlier this year that saw 48,000 applicants put their hands up for IT jobs in the capital.

Recruitment firm HainesAttract, which ran the hunt for the Wellington tech workers, is spearheading LookSee Build.

HainesAttract Director Hamish Price said that he hopes the programme can involve every big construction player in New Zealand.

"With LookSee Build NZ we are essentially trying to future-proof the construction industry for a level of infrastructure build that this country has never seen.

"We'll be targeting the UK and Ireland and other selected markets for the right people to come here and live and work in New Zealand," Price said.

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It is the first time New Zealand’s public and private construction sector have joined forces for a single cause and Downer NZ General Manager, network maintenance and civil construction, Craig West, said the need for top talent is so severe it required an innovative approach to talent procurement.

West said: “Our construction sector is very competitive and this kind of inter-industry co-operation has never happened before but the need for staff requires us to take an all-of-industry approach.

“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.”

Auckland Transport Chief Infrastructure Officer Greg Edmonds also said that the recent downturn in British construction activity had created an ideal employment environment in which to make a pitch to potential migrants to New Zealand.

“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,” explains Edmonds.

“More than 82% were prepared to pay their own travel and more than half were prepared to migrate within three months.”

Hoping to attract 20,000 construction professionals, the Look See Build NZ campaign is supported by NZ Immigration and offers a range of traditional Kiwi experiences to help lure the workers there next year.

The offshore hopefuls can register for the scheme and, if shortlisted, they'll be flown there in February for interviews and their choice of adventure, including a Black Caps cricket test, a Maori cultural performance in Rotorua, surfing at Raglan, fishing on the Hauraki Gulf, bungee jumping at Queenstown and wine-tasting on Waiheke Island

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

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment projected demand for construction-related occupations would increase by 11% between 2016 and 2022.

That translated to 56,000 more employees nationally, half of whom would need to service Auckland.

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