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NZ’s education sector vs. NZ’s workforce – A synergy worth exploring?

07 April 2021

We are well into a year since the pandemic started causing abrupt border closures across the world. By now, there has been enough coverage and limelight shed on the plight of New Zealand businesses who rely on foreign workforce to meet their business needs. With the supply of such workforce cut off (as offshore work visas continue to be suspended), many employers are finding themselves at crossroads – reduce their demand and consequently revenue or stretch their already employed staff. There is a border category called ‘other critical worker’ which allows for entry into New Zealand for economic purposes, but this in no way an easy process – and threshold for approval remains critically high.

While the bubble with Australia is on the brink of opening, this doesn’t necessarily increase the pool of talent available to NZ employers.

So, what does an employer in desperate need of workers do?

With Covid19 testing the limits of resilience for many, there could be an opportunity in plain sight for these employers – international students. Would it be worth exploring?

Foreign students are plentiful in New Zealand. They are within New Zealand borders and many with a year or two (possibly 3) of unrestricted work rights. In 2019, a study done by Education New Zealand deep dived into the perception of employers when it comes to hiring international students. It states that while most employers look for NZ experience, gaining this is far easier said than done for international graduates. There were other key barriers as well: 66% of employers were put off by the visa process and its challenges, 59% had concerns about their spoken language ability and a smaller portion, 22% believed international students struggled to adjust in New Zealand. The interesting fact is once an employer “took the risk” and hired an international student post their study completion, 87% of employers reported them as excellent or very good.

What does this mean? That foreign students in New Zealand seeking work could provide a sensible solution to many employers plagued with staff shortage. This will not work for many who need experienced staff and do not have the resources to upskill apprentice employees but there are opportunities that lie in leveraging the current talent pool waiting for employment opportunities in New Zealand.

Tertiary education has a crucial role in supplying skilled candidates that are needed in the workforce. Besides, labour market forecasts help build a picture of the world in which current and future graduates are being prepared. Programs that combine classroom-based theoretical knowledge with advanced practical apprenticeships have proven successful in terms of hiring rates. Also, the prestige that comes from these qualifications drives a more robust demand for the labour market courses.

At Aims Global, we directly work with both New Zealand businesses and education providers. It is exciting to see that Covid19 is bringing innovation in recruitment strategies for many employers. Education providers are working collaboratively with them, providing more hands-on experiences to their students than ever before to be more “job-ready”. We establish a bridge through a range of services that allow for the transfer of synergy between the two sectors – employers and job-ready graduates.

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