Nearing the end of 2020 and more than ready to see the back of it, I thought I would take the opportunity to reflect on the industry trends we have seen in the Engineering job market over the last year, which may very well apply to other industries across New Zealand. 

I work with small to medium sized design led Engineering consultancies across the country, and more specifically source talent for civil, geotechnical, environmental and structural engineering roles from the local and international markets. These perspectives below come from my own experience, as well as talking to many clients and candidates in the market on a daily basis.

Below are some client and job market related perspectives from the last 12 months: 

  • The year started off with a boom, job opportunities were plentiful and talent was scarce, with nearly every Engineering consultancy undertaking hiring activities, and a large focus being on bringing international talent into the country. 
  • At the end of March 2020, there was a sudden and abrupt halt on all recruitment whilst business leaders took time to reassess current Vs. future workforce plans and projects. Candidates that were in progress with interviews were cancelled due to uncertainty.
  • A handful of consultancies remained strong and engaged and hired throughout April/May 2020, showing resilience and a strong outlook. It’s this that helped them secure some top talent over this time, taking the ‘quiet’ period as an opportunity to train and upskill new starters. Likewise, this period we started seeing redundancy processes commence amongst a small handful of Engineering consultancies.
  • Around June/July, we started to see the majority of consultancies bounce back, showing quick recovery, especially those consultancies dependent on private sector clients with strong project pipelines.  
  • Clients who continued to hire have become “fussier” with their needs due to increase in candidate availability and talent in the market. 
  • On the same hand, we have noticed an increase in competition amongst engineering consultancies to ‘win’ over good people in the local market, as ‘quality’ talent pools tightened. 

Candidate and talent market related perspectives from the last 12 months: 

  • At the start of 2020, the talent market was highly scarce locally and the opportunity to bring skilled Engineers into the country in early 2020 was the main focus. Key locations of sourcing talent being from South Africa, the United Kingdom and the States. 
  • March/April saw mostly all recruitment activities ‘put on ice’, specifically for international talent – all candidates that had secured NZ job offers and work visas had contracts withdrawn.  
  • Candidate availability flooded in the 2nd quarter of 2020 with local candidates facing redundancies and entering the market. 
  • This brought on an increase in responsiveness by candidates, with people feeling nervous about their position and open to having conversations with recruiters. Likewise, we sensed hesitancy to change jobs due to the current climate and the unknown for the 2nd half of the year. 
  • Mid year, we were speaking to a lot of passive candidates who were not happy with the way employers responded to covid and lockdown. These high calibre candidates started looking around at other opportunities with most of them now being re-employed and thriving. 
  • There was a higher expectation of remote interviewing and engagement and those employers who responded well and accommodated this had a higher chance of securing talent.
  • It was during the final quarter of 2020 that we saw an influx of Kiwi’s returning to New Zealand, after the second UK lockdown was announced.  
  • Slow down in candidate responsiveness came into play around November / December 2020 as people are holding out for Christmas leave and holding onto stability.
  • During the offer negotiation process, we saw an increase in work from home and flexible hours requests and again, employers need to be forward thinking with their policies and resources surrounding this in order to attract and secure the right people. 
  • Those people who are securing new positions have set start dates confirmed for around Feb / March 2021. These candidates are proactive and ‘ahead of the crowds’ by securing a job offer prior to the new year, when ordinarily a surge of talent enters the market and competition increases. 

It’s been an interesting year but the job market has bounced back tremendously. We currently sit with the age old challenge in that we are in dire need of highly skilled talent we cannot find locally. When our border restrictions ease up, hopefully, those individuals will seek out opportunities in New Zealand, knowing that we have set the standard for our response to the global pandemic.