December 6, 2022

Insights from the Latest Canterbury Job Market Report

8 min read

Christchurch is one of New Zealand’s fastest growing technology hubs, with many SaaS and technology based businesses setting up their headquarters in Canterbury. Positioned well to cater to any industry from tourism, agriculture, science, finance, property and virtually any other sector, Christchurch is seeing an increased demand for talent staff. We recently undertook our regional research and put together the Canterbury Regional report – insight that the industry looks to each year.

Our respondents for the Christchurch report

The tech professionals we surveyed in our report were from a range of experience levels, with the biggest group represented by those with over 15 years in the industry (36%). The next biggest percentage (23%) had between 10-15 years of experience. This indicates just how much senior talent exists in the local Canterbury region – a valuable element for software businesses who wish to compete on the world stage.

The split between public and private sector IT professionals in Canterbury was indicative of the split between presence of those sectors as a whole – with 70% private sector, 26% public sector and 4% not for profit organisations. 89% of our respondents are permanent employees – quite a lot more than Auckland who in our recent report there reported 67% permanent. More on the opportunity for contractor resources later.

Of course the other part of the IT regional report is surveying tech employers. Our respondents were 75% private sector businesses and 80% of respondents had a maximum of 50 full time employees. The Small-Medium sector is important for Christchurch and is certainly representative of software and IT agencies.

A talent shortage in Canterbury – with a need to explore contractors

Contractor resource is a critical part of IT projects and BAU operations in Wellington and Auckland where there’s a high demand for talent that standard employment avenues can’t meet. Contractors include those with specialist skills that the market struggles to find. This means that experienced contractors will often move from project to project, maximising their income and keeping variety in their work.

Canterbury has a noticeable lack of contractors in the makeup of the tech workforce. We mentioned earlier that of our respondents 89% were permanent. Whilst this might suit the needs of many businesses, the reality is that for larger projects or aspirational growth, finding permanent IT talent in every discipline is very difficult – not helped by the last few years of closed borders and the competitive markets in Auckland and the Capital.

Despite this need for contractors that we see as unlocking growth in the region, only 25% are planning to do so next year. Compare this with the intention to hire permanent employees (85%) and it appears the perspective of many employers is still that of building up their core team first. In our research we found that the motivators for hiring permanent staff were increased customer demand, internal IT requirements and adoption of new technology or projects. It’s that last motivator that may see more businesses start to explore the contractor option more as specialist skills aren’t available or necessary in a full time permanent hire.

This is not to say that full time permanent employees aren’t the foundation on which businesses build their teams, but we’d expect contractors to make up a bigger percentage of the Christchurch IT professional landscape in coming years.

Skills in demand within Christchurch’s tech sector

Our research shows that software development skills are still the number one desired capability in Canterbury. With a strong 70% private sector split and a desire to hire more permanent staff, it would appear that businesses are still struggling to resource their core IT teams.

Following software development in terms of demanded skills is that of systems/software/network architecture. We’ve observed a lot of movement within the senior level of Christchurch’s IT industry, which aligns with this type of skill being in high demand.

Other insights from the demanded skills include cloud skills (#4 on the list), which speaks to the continual migration of old business systems and servers onto modern cloud based architecture. A skillset that we expect to keep climbing up the list over the next few years is IT Security (currently #9 top demanded skill), with more sophisticated tech stacks, businesses relying upon technology to manage more of their operations and the nature of growing threats in cybersecurity that New Zealand faces.

Pay rises and bonuses

IT salaries continue to climb with the lack of available skills in the market, slow returning of migrant IT professionals, and the proliferation of different technical skills that employers need. As such, it’s not surprising that 79% of tech employers in Canterbury gave their staff a pay increase in the past year, and the exact same percentage planning on giving a pay increase in 2023.

This outweighs the expectations of Canterbury based tech professionals, with only 46% expecting a pay rise and 40% unsure or 14% definitely not expecting a pay increase.

This speaks to a need for employees and employers to maintain open dialogue about remuneration. Moving to another job simply for a pay rise may not be the only option for IT professionals if these expectations aren’t made clear to their existing employer.

How happy are Christchurch tech professionals?

We were heartened to find that 94% of tech professionals are happy in their current workplace, with Canterbury employers doing a great job of workplace culture – 31% cited this reason for considering their workplace as good to work in.  Other reasons our respondents gave for their positive feedback included ‘management style’ (16%), ‘salary’ (14%) and ‘Interesting & satisfying work’ (14%).

Despite this positive feedback, 68% of our tech professionals are considering a move to a different employer next year. This percentage isn’t to be taken personally as the nature of IT work offers new skill and experience growth with every role – the top reason our respondents gave for considering moving being ‘Career development’.

Our research also shows that in Canterbury’s tech scene, the work/life balance is considered ‘about average’ by 64% of respondents. We wonder if more widespread adoption of hybrid working and flexible hours could help move more responses into the ‘above average’ category (30% of respondents in this last survey).

Perhaps one of the most surprising (and positive) findings with regards to tech professionals’ attitude to New Zealand’s industry was that only 14% of respondents are considering a move overseas for work – compare that with 58% of respondents when reviewing the national results as a whole. With a talent shortage to the degree that New Zealand is experiencing, it’s encouraging to hear that Cantabrians are happy staying put.

Flexible working arrangements

There’s no doubt that we’re living in the era of flexible and remote working. While it may’ve been the result of forced circumstances in 2020, remote working has become commonplace for a great number of employers who observed that productivity didn’t suffer in many cases – and even improved through remote-based work. In today’s era many IT professionals opt for a ‘hybrid working’ arrangement where they split the week up into ‘in office’ hours and ‘work from home’ hours.

Flexible working was the number one non-financial benefit our IT professionals told us they’d appreciate from employers. Given the ability for technology to accommodate this working arrangement and no great material disadvantages to employers, it’s a great idea for IT roles to offer a degree of flexibility to attract more candidates.

Currently Canterbury employers are split between 58% who have remote workers and 42% who don’t – although 66% are offered this as an option. With the shortage of available IT talent in Christchurch to fill the needs of employers, we may see more employers outwardly advertising for remote-based talent – and IT professionals responding accordingly.

All of the employers that offered flexible working worked on a hybrid model, with staff spending time with the team in the office, and getting through solo workloads at home.

More opportunities for talent development through internships?

We believe that there’s a massive opportunity that’s currently going missed in Christchurch’s tech scene. An area that Absolute IT has long focused on supporting and advocating for is the earliest stage of an IT professional’s journey – deciding to go into the field, train, and get into their first role. Internships and graduate programmes are perhaps the most effective way of fostering fresh talent in the industry as the structure around them helps to ensure appropriate onboarding for the individual and provides promising developing talent the employer can support to help the business grow.

Whilst we believe that no region is tapping into the internship mechanism as well as it could, Canterbury has the lowest uptake of internships of all main cities we research. In this latest report, we found that just 8% of the IT professional workforce in the region have been part of an internship or graduate programme – 60% of that 8% were employed this way more than 11 years ago.

Of this 8% with an internship experience, we found the sentiment skewed mostly in the ‘somewhat valuable’ category. However, in regions where there was a higher uptake of internships and more recent experience with these, we found far more positive feedback, so there’s a potential that recall of these experiences plays a part.

We’d encourage businesses of all sizes to consider putting together programmes for recent graduates and junior experience level staff. If you’re unsure on where to start, reach out to our team for more information.

Learn more about Christchurch and New Zealand’s IT industry

If you’re interested in reading more about our tech sector, head over to the Absolute IT blog where you can find insights about a range of topics including skills in demand, pay and evolving technologies.

Explore our available IT roles today

Are you looking for a new IT role, perhaps one in which you can enjoy a flexible working arrangement? Check out our latest jobs to potentially find your next big career move.

Absolute IT