By Rochelle Stewart-Allen, HOST Senior Manager New Zealand

In New Zealand, we have a long list of skill shortages that need to be filled to ensure we’re meeting the needs of our growing population.

We need more farmers (beef and dairy), arborists and market gardeners. We need construction managers, university lecturers, mechanical engineers, midwifes and nurses. We need bakers, builders, bricklayers, carpenters, joiners, mechanics and aged care workers.

As Immigration NZ says “some skills are in chronically short supply“.

When I read these types of lists, what immediately springs to mind is the number of resettled Kiwis living in New Zealand who I have personally met who have these skills from their home countries. Some have years’ of experience and high levels of expertise.

And yet very few, if any at all, are working in their chosen professionals. Instead many are unemployed – or under-employed – as cleaners, taxi drivers, teacher aides. I’m not talking about people who have just arrived here. These are people who have lived here for two years, five years, 10 years, 20 years. They have settled well into the country, rebuilt their lives here, have high levels of English. They are also usually giving back in voluntary roles as a thank you to New Zealand for offering them a life here.

There is something fundamentally wrong when 30% of the people we welcome to New Zealand as refugees have professional skills and qualifications, have permanent residency and full work rights, and yet are unable to find suitable work. Over the past 10 years we’ve welcomed 7,500 refugees, which means about 2,250 have tertiary credentials. These figures don’t include those who have gone on to gain New Zealand qualifications.

Yes, these newly resettled Kiwis may look different or sound different – maybe they wear a hijab or have a beard, maybe they dress differently, come from a different religion – and yet fundamentally they share what we all want. They want to build a stable, peaceful life for themselves and their families, to be independent and earn a wage that covers their living expenses with some left over, to educate their children and care for their families, to contribute positively to New Zealand’s future and ensure we continue to live in a harmonious and welcoming society.

What’s needed to match this group of people with jobs that match their skills and experience? HOST International has already launched the
Refugee Talent job platform in New Zealand, following its success matching job seekers with suitable employers in Australia over the past two years.


Next week we welcome British economist and acclaimed thinker and writer Philippe Legrain to New Zealand. Philippe will present his research in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, which shows for every $1 spent welcoming refugees, an expected $2 return will be achieved in five years. He’ll demonstrate how former refugees are loyal, hard working, entrepreneurial and innovative.


How can you help make the necessary changes to ensure resettled Kiwis get a fair go? You can join us to hear Philippe’s message. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and forward our posts to others so that they also hear how they too can help plug these skill shortage gaps.


You can ask your company if they’ve considered employing candidates from a refugee background, particularly if you have skill shortages. You can offer a resettled Kiwi a paid internship so they can gain their first NZ experience. You can get alongside people in your community or business, introduce them to your networks, take them to networking events, help them integrate and learn from those in their industries.


Let’s work together to bring this untapped talent pool into the light. Let’s bring their international expertise, multi-lingual skills and innovative perspective into our workplaces. We will all be better for it.