Shortage of skilled workers is costing businesses millions

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A major manufacturer of water jets for boats fears losing millions of dollars in contracts if the government does not address urgent shortages of skilled workers.

HamiltonJet says the company is urgently looking for skilled workers.
Photo: Supplied / HamiltonJet

Christchurch-based HamiltonJet says its order books have quadrupled in the past 12 months and a lack of skilled workers available in the region means deliveries are taking longer.

HamiltonJet and other Christchurch manufacturers are calling on the government to approve thousands more visas for skilled workers, both regionally and nationally.

HamiltonJet chief executive Ben Reed said contracts, ranging from a few million dollars to more than $20 million, were at risk due to wait times, which meant the local economy was struggling.

“We are fighting desperately to try to maintain our reputation as a reliable supplier and a competent supplier,” he said.

“There is no doubt that we love so many other companies in the export sector who are struggling to be competitive at a time like this and the skills shortage is absolutely my main concern at the moment, I cannot find the people I need.”

HamiltonJet also manufactures control systems for commercial and military vessels around the world.

“This means we are in demand for…trade qualified people in areas such as foundry work, CNC machining, welding and fabrication, electrical engineering and others, these would be factory roles.

“We also need people in the tech industry, software development and electronics engineers are also something we have struggled to recruit over the past couple of years.”

HamiltonJet manufactures waterjets and control systems for commercial and military vessels worldwide.
Photo: Supplied / HamiltonJet

The calls for skilled workers come as Christchurch’s economic development agency, ChristchurchNZ, and the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce released a report outlining the need for jobs.

ChristchurchNZ said the government was to approve an additional 1,500 regional visas for manufacturing over the next year and 4,000 national visas for technology over the same period.

The organization said publicity data showed Canterbury had the strongest job growth of any region, with vacancies up 39% in the last 12 months.

The construction industry and machine operators were the most important industry and role, he said.

Reed said visas needed to be expedited from places like the Philippines and the UK.

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