Chief executive of the Nelson Regional Development Agency Mark Rawson says we need to tell a “better story” of our region to attract out of town talent. Photo: Supplied.

Talent needed for Nelson

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While the weather is good and the commutes are short, Nelson’s lifestyle is proving not enough to attract key workers needed for our region’s booming businesses – resulting in a call to action to combat the problem.

New research has revealed that many businesses in the region are experiencing rapid growth but are struggling to fill vacant positions, with 60 per cent saying talent attraction is their biggest issue.

The research was commissioned this year by the Nelson Tasman Innovation Neighbourhood (NTIN) – a group of local organisations who are collaborating on how to tackle common business issues and identify common opportunities.

More than 100 local employers and recruiters from a wide range of sectors were interviewed, as well as employees and prospective employees.

Almost all businesses have one vacant position, and more than half have two of more positions they’re trying to fill.

Some of the most difficult roles to fill are mid-to-senior technical roles and senior executives.

Chief executive of the Nelson Regional Development Agency (NRDA), Mark Rawson, says there are several contributing factors, including Nelson’s renowned “sunshine wages”.

“While we’ve got a great lifestyle, we can’t live off it,” he says.

The research reveals salaries on offer in Nelson can be 10 – 50 percent lower than the same job in a bigger centre, however 70 per cent of employers says they are doing all they can to increase pay rates.

Mark says, although job retention is not such an issue, people are worried about making the big move, with the perception of limited career opportunities.

“And, in many cases, we’re not just employing for one. There is also the challenge of finding a role for their spouse/partner.”

However, one Nelson business owner, Chris Rodley of SnapIT, believes the biggest issue is housing.

“We’ve tripled our staff this year, we’ve had no problem attracting them – the issue is housing them. We had one guy who couldn’t start for two months as he couldn’t find a rental. He ended up in a one-bedroom place for $450 per week. It’s the only thing that’s stubbing growth.”

Chair of NTIN Dave Thompson says all these factors are freezing the potential of businesses.

“Employers are telling us that not being able to find the right people means they have to be cautious about growth, have less time to be innovative, and feel as though they are constantly recruiting.”

And, with around 60 per cent of employers believing it’s going to get harder to recruit the talent they need in the future, Dave says we need to work together to address the obstacles.

“There are so many business success stories based here, with many more on the cusp, so we need to collectively change the perception that opportunities here are limited.”

NTIN has developed a set of tips that employers can implement, like promoting their business story, selling the career opportunity and not just the lifestyle, and a willingness to compete nationally for talent.

They are also committing to a range of actions to help address our region’s talent challenge, including supporting the NRDA to better promote the opportunities that exist here.

“We also want to share more widely how some businesses have used innovative solutions to address this challenge, and a recent example is Pic’s Peanut Butter and Sea Dragon job-sharing a senior position so they could utilise these critical skills without having to commit to a full salary each.”

In addition, NTIN has already kicked off several in-region initiatives, such as summer intern and grad-share programmes to create young ambassadors, as well as events to welcome new people to the region.

Mark says it’s all about telling a “better story” of our region.

“It’s a call to action for the whole region to collaborate and get the message out there that we’re doing some really cool, innovative things.”