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TUANZ: Tackle tech skills shortage by attracting diverse talent

Peter Griffin, Editor. 21 September 2023, 1:38 pm

The Technology Users Association has called on the next Government to ramp up its efforts to address skills shortages which the tech sector has identified as its key barrier to growth.

It follows the National Party’s release of its tech policy last Friday, which was dominated by proposals to attract highly skilled workers to New Zealand through new visa schemes.

TUANZ is also calling for better visa access for skilled migrants in tech and supporting roles, but also more work to be done on the domestic front to develop the skills pipeline.

“While there are a number of initiatives including the Technology Industry Transformation Plan (the ITP) to grow our local talent in the pipeline or underway, we are yet to see the benefits and more must be done to support the right institutions and to encourage people into study and careers in the sector,” TUANZ notes in its position paper on tech skills.

It has requested the next Government to focus on three key areas:

- Simplify and expedite visa application processes for skilled migrants in all tech and supporting sector roles.

- Work to support and develop programmes that encourage more Māori, Pasifika and Wahine into tech education and roles.

- Develop with industry and education institutions internships and digital apprenticeship schemes.

 “Although the ‘tap’ of offshore labour has been turned back on, the number of returning Kiwis and skilled migrants is not as high as anticipated. Additionally, despite large tech layoffs in the industry across the globe we have yet to see this turn into an opportunity for the New Zealand tech industry,” says Craig Young, TUANZ chief executive.

“When combined with our low numbers of New Zealanders studying tech we are scrambling for people with digital skills. It’s well documented that we continue to see low rates of representation of Māori and Pasifika in our digital workforce,” Craig added.

National’s tech policy

Last week, National said it would create the Minister of Technology portfolio if it formed the next Government, who would be tasked with working with industry to implement policy. The current Government has a communications and digital economy ministerial position. On the visa front national is proposing:

To offer an international graduates visa - a three-year open work visa for people who have graduated with a Bachelor's degree or higher within the last five years from one of the top 100 universities in the world. This visa will initially be capped at 500 successful applicants in the first year.

A new global growth tech visa - a residence visa for people with highly specialised skills who have worked at a top global tech company earning at least $NZ400,000 per annum. This visa will initially be capped at 250 successful applicants in the first year.

A digital nomad visa - a 12-month visa to attract skilled mobile people to come to New Zealand while working remotely for an overseas-based company, with the option to apply for a work or residence visa later if they choose to stay. This visa will initially be capped at 250 successful applicants in the first year.

Supporting startups - investigate changes to the tax treatment of options issued by startups to their staff to make it easier to attract and retain talent in their early years

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins was sceptical of the visa policy, comparing it to the millionaire investor visa National set up during its last term and which, Hipkins claims, only attracted “one or two people”.

IT Professionals NZ last year tackled some of the barriers and opportunities relating to digital upskilling and reskilling in its consultation paper Upskilling and Reskilling in the technology sector - a deep dive.


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