eHealth News: 600 tech worker border exceptions a ‘drop in the ocean’ editor Rebecca McBeth - February 23, 2022

Health IT companies can now apply for one of 600 border exceptions for tech workers, but the number is a “drop in the ocean” when compared to the demand, an industry leader says.

The border exception is available for specific roles that are in the highest demand, including software developers, security specialists, ICT managers and multimedia specialists.

Chief executive of industry body NZHIT, Ryl Jensen, says workforce is a critical enabler of the digital health ecosystem and the sector needs to work together on attracting, training and retaining the skilled workforce that is needed.

“We are completely supportive of the exception that NZTech and IT Professionals NZ have worked extremely hard to achieve, but we all know that’s just a drop in the ocean of what’s actually needed,” she says.

“There’s just not enough critical skills to fill the gaps within the sector and that’s amongst vendors, health providers and the Ministry of Health.”

She says if roles are not filled, that has a knock-on effect on everything the sector wants to achieve over the next few years, including a general capability uplift and the Hira programme.

“There’s concern that the digital skills shortage is hindering not just business as usual, but innovation and moving forward with other work programmes,” she says.

Health IT companies are particularly concerned that once New Zealand’s borders reopen, there will be an exodus of talent from the country.

Gina Hills, chief financial officer and executive vice-president of people at Orion Health, says the labour market remains incredibly tight for companies like Orion Health that are in a growth phase.

The company is focusing on recruitment of key roles and retention by offering staff the opportunity to work in Orion’s global offices, Friday afternoons off work over summer and making e-bikes available as part of a wider wellbeing programme.

Businesses can apply for an industry nomination for a border exception through NZTech or IT Professionals NZ.

IT Professionals chief executive Paul Matthews says employers seeking industry nomination are expected to be engaged in a programme to support domestic skills development and be working together as a member of a relevant industry body.

Companies wishing to bring workers in, the role being offered and the worker must meet certain requirements and industry expectations which are detailed in the nomination guide.

NZTech conducted a digital skills survey in July 2021, which found there more than two thousand open jobs for highly paid tech people with specialist or technical skills in New Zealand.

Pre-Covid, between 4,000 to 5,000 tech professionals were immigrating here every year.



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