Sharechat Logo

Govt backtracks on plan to force apprentices on construction firms wanting migrant labour

Wednesday 27th June 2018

Text too small?

The government has backtracked on a requirement for construction companies wanting to bring in extra foreign workers to have to take on apprentices too.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway today announced measures he says will make it easier for the building industry to employ workers from overseas. He estimates there is a 30,000-worker shortfall across the construction sector, and demand is growing fast.

Lees-Galloway has introduced two new measures he says will help ease skills shortages in the construction sector:

- A KiwiBuild skills shortage list, with a speeded-up process to fill specific roles, much like the Canterbury skills shortage list introduced during the rebuild;

- An employer accreditation or alternative pre-approval model allowing companies with good work practices to get visas for foreign workers more quickly and easily.

He also said the government would introduce accreditation for labour hire companies to manage the risk of worker exploitation.

But gone is Labour’s pre-election plan to force employers to train local one local apprentice as a quid pro quo for each foreign worker they bring in.

Instead, Lees-Galloway told BusinessDesk the government will be using KiwiBuild procurement processes to make sure construction companies take on apprentices too.

“One of the criteria for companies wanting to engage with KiwiBuild is demonstrating that training opportunities and apprenticeships are available and that people are getting those apprenticeships.

"We need an agile response, so in the short term we will be more reliant on migrant labour."

But critics say that’s a watered-down solution because instead of forcing every construction company that wants to bring in overseas workers to engage in training, it’s limited to companies which take KiwiBuild contracts

“It isn’t good enough,” Ron Angel, construction industry coordinator for the E tū union told BusinessDesk. “Using overseas labour isn’t a long term solution. If companies are going to bring in migrant workers, they have to have a commitment to training local workers as well."

Angel said his experience with the Canterbury rebuild is that employers wanting to bring in migrant workers said they would train locals, but they didn’t. They just didn’t get around to it.

“If all those companies over the years of the rebuild had actually trained up apprentices, we’d have hundreds more people in the industry by now.”

Lees-Galloway said feedback from the construction sector about the KiwiBuild Visa scheme was it wasn’t going to provide enough skilled workers quickly enough.

“We became concerned that if we were too prescriptive, we might create disincentives for people to use the scheme. But in the longer term, through our broader construction workforce strategy, we believe we can get the same outcome."

The immigration minister is working with Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa, whose construction skills action plan does contain strategies around training, including the “dole for apprenticeships” scheme which was also in the pre-election Labour manifesto.

Salesa said she will look for engagement with the construction sector on the action plan, starting tomorrow and finishing on July 17.

Meanwhile, Lees-Galloway said the KiwiBuild skills shortages list could be in place around the end of the year.

“This is a broader, more comprehensive and quicker approach for the construction sector to get the skilled workers it needs than the KiwiBuild Visa,” he said.


  General Finance Advertising    

Comments from our readers

No comments yet

Add your comment:
Your name:
Your email:
Not displayed to the public
Comments to Sharechat go through an approval process. Comments which are defamatory, abusive or in some way deemed inappropriate will not be approved. It is allowable to use some form of non-de-plume for your name, however we recommend real email addresses are used. Comments from free email addresses such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc may not be approved.

Related News:

NZ dollar eases as US-China trade war, Brexit saga drag on
OceanaGold less confident in regulatory regime
INFINZ says RBNZ bank capital proposals lack analysis and scrutiny
Spark scolded for misleading customers on broadband price hike
Zespri annual profit jumps 77% on higher kiwifruit sales, increased licensing
Freightways says express package growth slowed in 2H, may flow into FY2020
BUDGET 2019: NZ debt target to be more flexible from 2022
Argosy annual profit climbs 36% on revaluation gains, pays slightly bigger dividend
NZ-owned banks says RBNZ capital proposals will make it harder to compete
Sanford earnings hit by vessel impact from crew death

IRG See IRG research reports