November 11, 2020

The Canterbury Tech Landscape

6 min read

In September 2020, Absolute IT released our Christchurch Regional Report, based on surveys conducted with job seekers and employers at the start of the year. This report offers plenty of fascinating insights into the motivations, opportunities and mindset of our IT/digital sector down in the South Island’s most populated city.

So, what are the takeaways from this report? What can job seekers do to find the best roles and meet the needs of a dynamic Canterbury tech market? We cover that all, right now.

The jobs that are in demand with little supply

While there’s a healthy demand and supply for software developers in Christchurch, there’s other areas where employers are desperate to find good talent but have struggled to find it. These areas include Digital & Cloud skills, Architects and most interestingly, Agile.

Those with digital and cloud skills like data security, artificial intelligence, DevOps, integration, serverless architecture such as that made possible with AWS should consider investigating roles within Christchurch, as based on our research there is a big disparity in the need for, and availability of high quality talent.

Business Analysts, with their critical thinking, assessment and communication abilities are still highly sought after, with our employers surveyed placing this skill demand as 3rd on our top 10 list. While not the same gulf of demand vs. supply as Digital & Cloud skills, Job Seekers’ skills indicated less availability of BAs than the market may necessarily need. What to take from this? Anyone with a BA background looking for a new role is encouraged to look around in Christchurch’s tech sector.

The Agile Opportunity

Agile is a skillset consistently in demand across New Zealand, albeit in the top 10. While a few years ago this capability demand was at its peak elsewhere in the country, Christchurch has seen Agile’s demand in 2020 skyrocket into the top 3 skills needed by employers.

Agile doesn’t feature in the top 10 list of skills held by job seekers in our survey, so this disparity should present an opportunity for professionals looking to enter into the market who do possess the necessary skill set. Interestingly, project manager skills in the region far outstrip the demand according to our employers surveyed. While having some fundamental differences to traditional PM roles, there is a possibility that a segment of project managers could have some experience or interest in building out their Agile skills. A pivot towards this non-linear, short burst style project management could open up more career opportunities.

Jobs with plenty of competition

Broadly, the tech industry in New Zealand doesn’t have enough experienced talent to go around. This is great news for those that do have the skills but makes it hard for businesses to progress at the rate they’d like. From our research, it was apparent that in almost all cases, there is as much demand if not more than the supply. The closest example of a 50/50 was in software development; a giant field consistently first in the list of demands and skills. In fact, the only example in our top 10 lists of supply outshining demand was the aforementioned Project Manager skills. This isn’t to say that there are no project manager roles available, but rather the options an employer has for this role is likely far greater than a systems architect for example.

It’s important to note that finding people management is no problem at all for the Canterbury IT sector, with management reported as the third most abundant skill by the workforce (and not even featuring in Employers’ top 10 skills list). More intermediate roles like helpdesk and admin also show as readily available, while Employers seemingly need more advanced, specialist roles filled.

Overseas talent not an option until things change

Before 2020, employers had the option of overseas talent to fill gaps in capability not available domestically. With the events of this year however, this has not been an option. Homegrown talent has the potential to be nurtured into these more senior roles, drawing upon existing experience combined with deliberate upskilling. For example an experienced Systems Engineer may have many of the elements needed for an Architect role, and, with the right support and time investment, have the potential to land the job.

At the time of writing, there’s no certainty as to when the world’s IT talent will be able to visit and move to New Zealand again. For now, Kiwis should make the most of the shortage, building their knowledge out as quickly as possible and keeping an eye on job listings in the region.

Employers need resource for their projects and growth

Our research of Employers told us that the main motivators for hiring new staff included 33% touting new projects and 20% with increasing IT demands of the business. This is very encouraging for the tech and digital professionals of Christchurch, as employment to resource these needs typically represents market growth (vs. replacement of departing staff).

This resource isn’t confined to permanent hires, with 26% of employers planning on engaging contractors to meet their needs. The advantage of a contractor hire for Employers is the expected immediate productivity given their experience and specialisation in a particular discipline. This reduces training and overhead cost, and de-risks the hire for the employer, being a hired resource for a very specific task, project or time period.

Job seekers – open your mind to the possibility of contracting, especially if you have expertise in specific areas. While there’s more to think about like paying your own tax and stringing together enough work over the year, the hourly rates can be excellent – although it’s worth noting the median contractor rate for tech in Christchurch is $85/hr – $11 under the national median of $96/hr.

Stability in tech and digital income during 2020

There’s a lot of ways people are describing 2020 – and stable probably isn’t one you’ve heard. So it might sound a bit surprising when we say that of all the industries to work in, IT is among the most stable in New Zealand (although not without its own challenges of course). IT and digital is a big part of the answer to a new world that demands remote communication, health & safety and continual improvement to our everyday lives.

The stability of the tech sector in Christchurch is clear from the salary levels maintaining or increasing through 2020 across roles.

Christchurch’s tech community

Living and working in Christchurch as an IT professional? You can connect with others in the industry through associations and meetups. Building a network of contacts at events like these is one of the best ways to become known and learn about the businesses that make up your local industry. You can get involved in a local hackathon – which doesn’t just introduce you to others, but showcases some of your expertise on a practical problem to solve.

The region is home to countless Kiwi companies’ head office, and the home of many global brands too. And if you’re looking to upskill with formal training and qualifications, the area offers excellent tertiary study options, too.

Looking for IT work in Christchurch?

If you’ve got tech skills that are in demand, our team can help find you roles in the Canterbury region – the perfect job might not be far away! Find out more about our Christchurch office here.

Absolute IT