The owner of an established glazing company says finding workers has never been this hard, as the Government looks to turn off the migration tap in its post-Covid immigration reset. 

Nick Reid bought 100-year-old glazing company Auckland Glass three years ago and with great difficulty increased its staff by 50 percent to 30 staff, but current immigration restrictions may make it harder for businesses like his in the construction sector to continue growing. 

Last year Auckland Glass had higher revenue than the year before Covid thanks to big contracts on major infrastructure projects, including working on office fit-outs at Auckland’s Commercial Bay precinct.

But Reid says while the business is getting new contracts, the challenge has been a dwindling pool of talent. 

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The skills shortage he says has been the result of fewer locals wanting to train as glaziers coupled with the fact he says is “unrealistic” to pay a skilled tradesman $106,000 (Immigration NZ’s priority skilled migrant criteria), which was not in line with the industry standard.

“While the skills shortage has always been there, it’s never been more prevalent than right now,” Reid says. 

“We’d like to grow our staff by about 20 percent. There’s just not enough people learning the trade here.”

He says job advertisements across social media, recruitment websites and through recruitment agencies posted for a month would only attract five applicants, whereas two years ago, similar investment would bring at least 20 people. 

Reid hopes to grow Auckland Glass by 50 percent over the next two years, but that plan, he says, is dependent on whether or not he can get skilled workers.

Auckland Glass co-owner Nick Reid says while his business is getting new contracts, there is a dwindling pool of talent holding growth plans back. Photo: Supplied

“We made a decision two years ago to become an accredited employer to give skilled migrants a pathway to residency and employ offshore migrant workers but it’s a long costly process.

“It took us 18 months to get there and once we got there, it was a case of bad luck, the borders shut.”

He says the company has been unable to hire staff offshore and the migrants here have long queues ahead of them for permanent residency.

Immigration New Zealand is processing “non-priority” onshore residency applications from August 2019. There is a wait time of about a year and eight months.

But priority applications, by those migrants earning more than $106,000 or working in jobs that need occupational registration, are allocated to officers within two weeks of submission. 

The average salary of a glazier ranges between $50,000 to $85,000. 

“While the skills shortage has always been there, it’s never been more prevalent than right now,” Auckland Glass co owner Nick Reid says.

Reid says while he’s in support of having an economy not heavily reliant on migrant workers, there needs to be a transition as well as an effort for consultation from the Government before making a “short-sighted” immigration reset.

“The transition needed to be staggered, you can’t just turn the tap off. I consider our guys skilled workers and it cannot be learnt in a six-month period.”

Earlier this month, the Government announced about 500 MIQ rooms would be made available for “large groups” of skilled and critical workers every fortnight.

This would allow 2400 more RSE workers to be allowed into the country by March next year as well as 300 specialised construction workers by October to work on Auckland City Rail Link, Transmission Gully and Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre.

Reid says while his company has been able to come out of Covid-19 mostly unscathed, going forward, the immigration reset will worsen the skills shortage for the wider construction industry and SME owners. 

“We have a small number of migrant workers, and they’re really good. We’re concerned some of these guys might not be able to get residency under these new rules and that’s a real shame. And it also means the skills shortage is only going to get worse, which is a concern for our business and for the entire construction industry.”

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