Feature article

Skilled workers tipped to follow jobs to regions in 2023

When recession strikes, we're tipping big city workers will be more likely to follow jobs to the regions

In our State of the Nation report for 2023, we forecast that if a recession hits in 2023, more city workers would be moving around the country in search of the right job and affordable housing.

Our tip in the report was that Gisborne, Taranaki, and Otago might benefit from this trend with Taranaki showing an increase in job listings of 13% for the 11 months from January to November 2022 compared with the previous period in 2021. Otago saw an increase of 9% and Christchurch, with job listings up 5%, is another very popular spot where Aucklanders and Wellingtonians might follow a job.

Hiring intentions in the regions

We went to the regions to test the temperature among employers and recruiters and see what employers’ hiring intentions were for 2023, despite the expectation that a shallow recession will arrive in the coming months.

Karen Haigh, Talent Specialist at economic development agency, ChristchurchNZ, says organisations actively hiring at the moment in Christchurch include the tech and high tech manufacturing. According to figures from MBIE (Ministry of Business, innovation and Employment) job vacancies in Canterbury have increased 50% from their pre-Covid equivalent (December 2022 quarter vs December 19 quarter). And more specifically, during 2022, there was a 23% increase in jobs advertised in IT jobs compared with 2021 and 20% in manufacturing. There’s also been a significant increase in health jobs advertised (21%) and 22% in accounting in the same period.

The Christchurch economy has a broad range of sectors including food and fibre, health, manufacturing, all of these fairly well placed to get through a recession, she says.

And the garden city, with two universities, has clusters or hubs of industry players which help provide a really supportive ecosystem for workers moving to Christchurch, says Karen. Professional association Canterbury Tech for instance has regular meetups and hundreds of people come along to them, says Karen.

There are also aerospace industry meetups, she says. These get-togethers are great places for people thinking of a career change to find out about other interesting ideas and opportunities, says Karen.

One of the main reasons we found in our State of the Nation survey for job hunters to be looking for a job move was because they wanted a complete career change or to secure a job with better career prospects.

The Christchurch NZ talent expert says women looking at changing careers are very well supported through the development agency’s PowerUp initiative. PowerUp targets women looking at new opportunities, actively supporting those looking to move to Christchurch, says Karen. The initiative runs workshops for women to identify what their transferable skills are, arranging meetings with businesses who are hiring.

Christchurch is also benefiting from a trend for national companies to expand their bases to the South Island to spread risk during crises. Large national organisations like Spark and Datacom have done this at their Christchurch bases and are open to staff moving to Christchurch from other offices, says the talent specialist.

And if you’re lucky you might get paid to move there. Companies like Spark, Datacom, PwC offer good relocation packages and the same salary as you’d be earning in a bigger city. Karen knows of couples gaining $25,000 a year by making the move because they’re staying on the same salary and living somewhere more affordable. According to Trade Me Property Price Index for January, the average asking price of a three to four bedroom home in Christchurch is $754,250.

How does the Christchurch NZ talent specialist think local businesses will do in a recession in 2023? “We tend to have more SMEs (small and medium enterprises)who can be more resilient in tough times. While big US tech companies are doing layoffs, we tend to have different types of tech which are not as vulnerable in a recession,” says the talent specialist.

With the incredible growth seen in jobs advertised, it’s a great place to grow your career and look for more opportunities, plus it’s affordable to rent or buy a home and then there’s the lifestyle. “You can live a more balanced life because it’s a compact city, it takes 20 minutes to get anywhere,” says Karen.

Taranaki an attractive region for job hunters prepared to move

A recent business survey by regional agency, Venture Taranaki, found that 60% of respondents are anticipating a tougher year ahead in 2023. But the agency says the region has a number of strengths including natural resources, energy, food, water, entrepreneurial people and skills which have served it well and will continue to do so.

Taranaki has a thriving primary sector, a construction boom, industries like manufacturing, agriculture, forestry, construction, engineering, food and fibre, IT/Digital and the health and visitor sectors, says Stacey Hitchcock, General Manager Investment and Deputy Chief Executive.

“The renewable energy space is a key industry for our region and could have a significantly positive impact on our communities in the next decade, “she adds.

For people wanting a career change in 2023, Taranaki has a number of large employers who are “open and willing” to onboard career changers, she says.

“Taranaki employers are aware that in order to attract talent and fill skill gaps, they need to be open to giving “career changers” a go and to invest in their training and development.

Datacom, for instance, hired an intermediate school teacher to become a field services engineer. The NZ branch of LogiCamms, based in Taranaki has also hired people and trained them on the job. Other large Taranaki employers open to people seeking a career change include TSB, and Clelands Construction, the company which built the New Plymouth airport and the Len Lye Centre among others..

As for lifestyle, Taranaki is an award-winning region, she says, with its main centre New Plymouth awarded the world’s most livable city for its size in 2021 by the UN-backed International Awards for Liveable Communities.

Affordability is something Taranaki can boast of with the median house price in New Plymouth sitting at $620,000 compared with the national median house price of $810,000 in November 2022, the regional agency says. The average asking price for a Taranaki home in the Trade Me Property Price Index for January 2023 was $652,750.

Otago – a popular drawcard for talent leaving the cities

Otago has been one of the most popular places for New Zealanders to travel to post-Covid before the borders opened internationally. And it’s no surprise that many workers are already choosing to base themselves somewhere beautiful like Wānaka, Queenstown or Dunedin.

Platinum Recruitment managing director, Daniel Harmes, is based in Dunedin and covers the South Island. New Zealanders are far more open to relocating to other parts of the country for work than Brits or Australians, says the Brit, who has lived in both countries..

“In New Zealand, we’ve seen a steady increase in people looking to move out of the urban centres,” he says.

Wānaka and Queenstown-Lakes generally, has attracted digital nomads in the last couple of years, Queenstown Lakes often perceived as the jewel in the crown of Otago, says Daniel.

In terms of hiring intentions for his employers in Otago there’s been a continued need for talent over the last year, says the recruiter. In 2023, employers are being more particular about hiring, because a bad hire is costly.

“We would encourage employers not to hire for the sake of hiring. Companies have got a bit burnt taking that approach,” he says..

The Platinum MD check believes employers will still be looking to hire throughout 2023 to help their productivity. “To maintain productivity, they’ve got to look to hire good talent, I don’t see that dropping off,” he says.

People may lose their jobs but there will be lots of opportunities out there if you’re good at what you do, the recruiter believes. Sectors like healthcare and nursing, those needs won’t go away.

Tips for employers hiring out of towners

His message to smart companies when it comes to interviewing candidates, is that they may be comfortable with Zoom interviews but they still want to press the flesh and meet the candidate in person.

“And I’d always encourage the employer not just to fly the interviewee in but the family, as well, because they’ll be relocating too and it helps with the candidate’s “stickability,” says Daniel.

And companies hiring in Otago will have to put their best foot forward when it comes to remuneration. Otago has paid lower salaries than the larger city centres historically but this is not so common now, notes the South Island recruiter.

“Smart employers are matching what other businesses are paying, they’re not just competing locally for talent but nationally. The cost of living is lower in the South Island but not massively lower,” he explains. The average asking price in January 2023 on the Trade Me Property Price Index was $838, 050.

For Queenstown Lakes employers who don’t want to pay these national rates, that's a problem because the cost of living is so much higher there than other parts of the South Island, he adds.

The Platinum Recruitment MD, recommends Dunedin as a place to follow a job and a lifestyle. “Dunedin has a lot to offer, it doesn't have the tourism of Queenstown, it has a good- sized population, a great place to do business. I’ve lived all over the world, and can’t imagine raising my family anywhere else, says the Brit.

“It’s a great, small city, I’d like to see more opportunities come our way. We’re building a new digital hospital, there’s the tertiary university scene,” he says. Dunedin is also known for its game development community.

Construction and infrastructure projects keeping Otago busy

Meanwhile in the tourism hotspots of Otago,it’s the residential construction and infrastructure projects with government funding which are bringing talent to the area, says Harriet Birchall, principal consultant with Lynx Professionals.

Recruiting for an infrastructure project manager for Alexandra at the moment, the recruiter says hiring intentions still look strong in the region and there’s a skills shortage. As well as construction, Lynx is recruiting for warehousing and logistics in Otago. The trade and labour side of things are always busy, says Harriet.

“A shallow recession isn’t going to change things,” she adds. No one in a growth phase is going to be pausing. There’s enough resources to get work done without overleveraging,” she adds.

Employers will offer a whole package of relocation sweeteners to new hires, which will range from covering $5000 to $20,000 moving costs. Health insurance has become a big perk, and gym memberships and a vehicle fuel card are popular, says the recruiter.

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