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Skills shortage forces NZ sign companies to look overseas

New Zealand signage businesses struggling to fill vacancies for qualified signwriting staff have begun interviewing a group of about a dozen signwriters from the Philippines who are hoping to migrate.

 Bruce Porteous, MD Immigration Placement Services, with a job applicant (image supplied)

“There’s a big demand,” said Manila-based Bruce Porteous, managing director of Immigration Placement Services, a NZ company that specialises in bringing skilled migrants into New Zealand from the Philippines. The company received a strong response from sign businesses to its recent ad in the NZ Sign & Display Association newsletter:

Sign Writers Looking for Positions in NZ
Immigration Placement Services have experienced sign writers including digital seeking to work in NZ.  Work visas have been arranged.  If interested to receive CV's or to arrange interviews please email Bruce Porteous here.

“Obviously they wouldn’t be looking overseas if there wasn’t a shortage,” Porteous told Wide Format Online. “But I don’t think signwriting is any different from a number of other occupations where people in these industries are getting older and retiring or the younger ones are going to Australia, where they can make more money. New Zealand has to replace those who are leaving.

“We’ve had quite a lot of sign companies contact us and at the moment we’re sending CVs of qualified applicants to them and hopefully we’ll be able to place a number of them. We have about a dozen or so qualified signwriters looking for jobs, some of them are more on the installation side, some are more on the design side. We’ve also have a lot of graphic artists.”

Porteous says NZ government regulation has made it more difficult for employers to recruit from overseas than was the case 15 years ago, but he says the Australian regulatory process is worse.

“The problem is that the Australian government there has brought in a lot of new requirements which has made it very expensive for employers. So, before an employer can hire from overseas they’ve got to obtain sponsorship approval, which costs about $2,500, then they’ve got to pay additional for nominating the worker that’s selected, I think that’s another $400, then for some countries like the Philippines, the worker has got to do a trade’s test according to Australian specifications. That can cost up to another $5,000. Then there’s visa processing, which is quite expensive.  So all up you’re looking at $6,000 or $7,000 just in all the fees involved. Plus, they may have to do an English language test. So it makes it expensive both for the migrant and the employer. And this was done partly for political reasons, prior to the last election.

“Whereas in New Zealand, it’s much more straightforward and they don’t need language tests or trade tests. All they need is to provide the evidence that you’ve got the skills. Immigration requires them to have at least three years of proven signwriting work experience, unless they have qualifications that can also be taken into account.

“Visas take about a month, then they’ll get a three-year work visa and that can be rolled over to another three years and so on, with an opportunity to apply for permanent residency.” 

Online applicant interviews with employers began last week.