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Immigration changes bring welcome booster to NZ's regional businesses

29 Aug 2018

Recent changes to immigration settings for international students mean there are now many more opportunities for New Zealand businesses to reach for the global stage.

That’s according to ChristchurchNZ, which believes that businesses in Christchurch and other regional centres can now harness international student talent.

This month the government announced changes that attract higher-skilled talent to the regions instead of just Auckland, which is good news for businesses – especially businesses in Christchurch.

ChristchurchNZ programme manager of international education, Bree Loverich, says migrant workers are essential to the region’s increasing skills shortage.

By 2031, Christchurch will face a talent shortage of 73,000 people, so it’s important to attract and retain talented workers in order to remain competitive.

Bree says the new immigration settings will attract international students that are studying higher-level degrees. The higher the qualification, the more post-study work rights the students will have.

“This provides students with a pathway to residence who have the skills that our businesses need.”

“Cities must compete for capable people which is far easier when that global talent already has a connection to the city, community and friends via education,” she continues.

“Rather than recruit migrants via immigration skilled labour initiatives, international education develops a global talent pool of students whom are trained in New Zealand, in English, and are Kiwi culturally aware.”

ChristchurchNZ also believes that international people offer talent, cultural insights and connections that can help businesses commercialise innovation.

Although Canterbury is known for its innovation and investment into new things, businesses need to work on translating this innovation into economic outcomes.

ChristchurchNZ adds that lack of workplace diversity and lack of knowledge about international markets can stifle the process of bringing a product to market.

If businesses leverage international talent that is already in the regions, businesses have a better chance of success.

One business that has been uplifted by an international internship is Lincoln Agritech. It hired a Chinese intern through ChristchurchNZ’s Job Ready Programme.

Intern James Wang helped to develop the company’s China distribution plan and he is now a fulltime employee.

According to Lincoln Agritech CEO Peter Barrowclough, he quickly recognised the value Wang’s international experience could offer.

“James’ international agricultural experience and lingual skills made him a pivotal part of our company’s overseas expansion,” explains Barrowclough.

ChristchurchNZ says Lincoln Agritech is one of many Christchurch companies engaged with the Job Ready Programme, developed to support international students’ pathways to employment and help small to medium enterprises realise the potential of the global, yet local, talent pool and gain essential workforce development capability available on their doorsteps.

“This talent pipeline offers the cultural expertise that Canterbury businesses need to scale and commercialise their products and services offshore,” Bree concludes.

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