December 15, 2022

Insights from the Latest Waikato Job Market Report

7 min read

As our Regional Manager of Waikato Brian Bernard puts it, Waikato might be described as “the upcoming mini Silicon Valley for New Zealand” with the innovation, start-ups and tech professionals moving to the area. As part of our efforts to understand each tech market in the country, we routinely conduct research on both job seekers and employers to understand their motivations and priorities. 2022 has been an interesting year for the NZ tech sector. We’re a few years removed from the start of the pandemic, but the impacts have been felt all the way through, with the borders only reopening in full by mid-2022. The market is still short on talent as there’s not been enough time for lost overseas talent to be replaced – compounded by the fact that many Kiwi tech professionals are leaving to explore the world and ply their trade elsewhere.

Our latest Waikato Regional Report provides dozens of useful insights for both employers and employees to understand what’s happening in the region, and what they should think about in the next 12 months. Below we explore just a selection of these takeaways; we encourage you to read the full report.

Our respondents for the Waikato 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 (42%). The next biggest percentage (25%) had between 10-15 years of experience. The employment type was balanced between 52% permanent, 42% contract and 6% fixed term.

Waikato’s respondents reflected a 32% public sector/58% private sector/10% not-for-profit split.

The other part of the IT regional report is surveying tech employers. This split in sectors was 41% public, 46% private and 13% not-for-profit. The size of businesses varied, with 36% of employer respondents from businesses with 151+ employees, 31% with 11-50 and 26% with 51-100.

A talent shortage in Waikato

As is a prevailing trend across the country, we have a talent shortage, and Waikato is no exception. While the possibility of overseas talent will help fill some roles, we know that for some employers there’s a perception that New Zealand-based experience is required. We’d challenge this belief; many of the roles in high demand (more on this below) are highly technical and transferable from other markets. Overseas skill sets can benefit a role by bringing in outside perspectives and different problem-solving experiences.

Digital transformation in sectors like health is putting more strain on the talent pool in Waikato, although we’d expect the continual emigration from Auckland to help this somewhat, as well as the momentum of overseas talent settling into Waikato as well.

Skills in demand in Waikato’s tech sector

Software development and architecture are the most sought-after skills in the region, serving as the core technical capability that enables solutions to be delivered inside all organisations and project teams. Again, this shortage can be alleviated to a degree with an open mind to the fit of overseas talent. With digital transformation a priority for many large organisations, including those within the health sector, business analysis is in high demand as well. We’re observing a potential move to more permanent roles, where tech professionals have more stability and employers look to control resource costs. BAU team skills are in demand as well, with Systems Administration, DevOps and Support/Help desk skills also sought after.

Security promises to remain in the top 10 list for many years to come, with businesses moving more of their operations into the cloud and customer/user data requiring careful management and storage. And with reliance upon the internet which creates opportunities for cyber threats, security experience will bode well for tech professionals looking to maximise earnings and work opportunities.

Motivators for contractor hires

While we expect that permanent hires will make up a bigger chunk of the workforce based on the evolving needs of businesses in the region, contractors are simply part of any IT sector based on the nature of projects and access to specialist skills. In our research, we found that 56% of employers are planning on recruiting contractors in 2023.

Pay rises and bonuses

Pay has been a focal point of the tech workforce, and with the depleted numbers of available tech talent in the past few years, there have been excellent earnings opportunities for professionals possessing the right skills. While New Zealand is likely to have some degree of shortage for years to come (as has been the case for the past few decades), we could see Waikato pay stabilise with more talent becoming available and a focus on permanent hire into the BAU operations of businesses.

In 2022, 97% of Waikato tech employers gave their team pay increases – reflective of a need to retain good talent in a competitive market. Consciously, only 40% of tech professionals expect a pay increase, although the top motivator for considering and ultimately moving to a new role is improved income.

How happy are Waikato tech professionals?

9 in 10 tech professionals reported being happy with their current workplace, citing workplace culture most commonly (36%) as the reason for being happy. Despite a general sense of happiness in their work, 4 in 10 tech professionals are considering a move to a new workplace in 2023. Along with the aforementioned better pay, reasons given for this included contracts ending and simply ‘time for a change’ – a natural theme within the fast-moving and varied tech sector.

Work-life balance could be improved for tech professionals, but that often depends on factors like a specific role, stage of a project, family or personal circumstances, distance to the office, and time management. Employers should continue to work to make the work day and week manageable for their teams – it could mean the difference between keeping or losing that star performer.

Flexible working arrangements

Many impacts can be observed in the IT sector due to the events of COVID and the lockdowns that followed. Perhaps most noticeable has been the paradigm shift in employers’ attitudes towards remote working and flexibility of hours. Through enforced remote working, many employers – including those who’d previously offered a lighter degree of flexibility – have discovered the practicalities of hybrid or remote working is more than tenable. In fact, for many tech professionals, the ability to drop some or all of their commute is a big drawcard in their work. 86% of Waikato tech employers have remote workers now.

Security and business continuity changes in the tech sector have allowed more roles to be conducted offsite. This doesn’t just help keep good talent in the business, but is a strong benefit to advertise to new IT talent. Waikato employers who struggle to fill roles locally may look further afield for remote-based employees in 2023.

95% of Waikato employers offer flexible or remote working options – 97% of this is a mix of working remotely and coming into the office. It’s an encouraging statistic that we hope becomes the default for all employers.

More opportunities for talent development through internships?

We’ve long mentioned that addressing New Zealand’s talent shortage needs to start at the source; creating more desire and support in the education sector to choose IT as a career path. But the stage after training in the field is critical to get right as well – the first role out of tertiary education or other training. We see graduate programmes and internships as the logical channel for employers to attract new talent that may possess technical skills and simply have not applied them yet. An internship with the right mentorship and structure around it can benefit the business greatly – finding new, affordable resources that can grow with the business and its values.

Unfortunately, these programmes are underutilised in Waikato, with only 13% of tech professionals reporting as having gone through such a programme – 50% of which had this experience over 15 years ago.

There’s an initial investment of time and effort to building an internship or graduate programme – it needs to interface with the business in the correct way and requires good internal staff to surround interns with the right support. However, once the framework is in place, internships can become a valuable resource tool – we hope to see more internships surfacing next year.

Learn more about Waikato 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