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Government to make it easier to hire overseas construction workers

Government to make it easier to hire overseas construction workers

The Government is proposing a dedicated Kiwibuild skills shortage list, pre-approving construction companies to hire workers from overseas, and accrediting labour companies to hire foreign workers for KiwiBuild in a bid to beef up the labour force needed to build the Government's promised 100,000 houses.

"Our proposed KiwiBuild Skills Shortage List means building and construction firms can go through a quicker process to get the skilled workers they need when they can't recruit locally," Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said today.

New Zealand already has a long-term skill shortage list, Canterbury skills shortage list and an immediate skills shortage list.

"A dedicated KiwiBuild skills shortage list, which signals regional shortages, would allow the successful innovations from the current Canterbury skills shortage list to be adopted nationwide and provide a mechanism to boost overseas interest in work opportunities in New Zealand," a fact sheet accompanying the minister's announcement said.

Lees-Galloway said the Government would also look at streamlined process so construction and building firms could be pre-approved to bring in workers from overseas.

Labour hire companies that wanted to recruit from overseas would have to be accredited to reduce the risk of migrant worker exploitation and undercutting the wages and conditions of New Zealand workers.

It is estimated New Zealand is short of about 30,000 workers in the building and construction industry, particularly plumbers, electricians, engineers, builders and project managers.

"This is a broader, more comprehensive and quicker approach for the construction sector to get the skilled workers it needs than the 'KiwiBuild Visa' that was proposed last year.

"It's clear we need workers to be available more quickly; these proposals aim to speed up the process and circumvent the need to create a new visa category," Lees-Galloway said in a statement.

Any changes would be time-limited so that the sector did not become permanently dependent on migrant workers but would allow time to train New Zealand's own workforce.

The Government is also developing a construction skills action plan to address medium- and long-term labour market needs.

A Cabinet paper from Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa on the action plan suggests one way of increasing New Zealand's own workforce is the "Dole for Apprenticeships" scheme.

The scheme would give employers a wage subsidy for offering apprenticeships and fulltime, permanent work to those on benefits, particularly young people.

The Cabinet paper also acknowledged that KiwiBuild's use of modular building methods would change the skills and labour needs of the workforce and require "significant investment" by the sector in new technology.

Lees-Galloway expected the KiwiBuild Skills Shortages List to be in place in about six months.

The proposed changes to the immigration settings will introduce:

* KiwiBuild Skills Shortage List to provide an expedited process to fill specific roles for which we know demand exceeds domestic supply;

* An employer accreditation or alternative pre-approval model for the construction sector to provide certainty and flexibility for employers who exhibit good practices to recruit overseas workers and allow for simplicity and speed of processing visa applications

* A specific requirement to accredit labour hire companies to manage the risk of worker exploitation and the potential for under-cutting of wages and conditions of New Zealand workers that may result and to incentivize good employment practices.



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