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More migration only way to bridge ICT skills gap, says Joyce

Friday 8th April 2016

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Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce says more migration is the only way to bridge the current skills gap for ICT companies in New Zealand.

Joyce was asked at a Trans-Tasman Business Circle lunch in Auckland today what the answer was to the thousands of unfilled jobs advertised by New Zealand tech companies annually.

The rapidly growing industry is generating an estimated 3,000 new jobs each year which can’t be met by existing training initiatives underway, he said. A survey last year by industry organisation NZTech found tech companies want to recruit an estimated 10,000 employees in the next three years. The problem remains where to find them. 

Joyce said ICT graduates coming through the traditional tertiary system have grown from around 1,000 in 2008 to around 1,500 in 2015 along with around 350 through the three government-funded ICT Graduate School programmes in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, which closely link students with industry. 

But there was still a significant gap which could only be filled by skilled migrants, he said.

“That’s one of the reasons I’m leery of calls to halt immigration – apart from the fact there’s not much reason to because of the economic gains,” he said.

Annual net migration reached a new record high of 67,390 in February, the 19th straight month of record increases and exceeding Treasury’s forecast for a peak of 62,500 for the March quarter. Some commentators expect annual net migration to surpass 70,000 by June.

Joyce said most of New Zealand's fast-growing high-tech firms they’re already a “veritable United Nations “ of talent.

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment and Immigration NZ were working together to ensure skilled migrants in the ICT area were gaining access to work here.

“It’s a work in progress but we’re doing what we can,” he said.

Increasing the country’s available pool of skills, including arresting a decline in secondary school students studying STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and maths), was one of five key areas Joyce outlined to maintain the economic progress of the past five years.

The other four include: international connectivity through trade deals like the TTP; innovation, including focusing more on discovery-led science; improving resource allocation, including steady and measured reform of water allocation; and investment from offshore, particularly into New Zealand’s provincial areas to create more jobs.

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