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Up until early 2020, the majority of Kiwis’ were not aware of how reliant New Zealand is on migrant workers. Seasonal worker shortages are usually an annual problem with an annual solution, with huge numbers of migrant workers flown in from various parts of the world to cope with the massive picking demand of our horticulture and viticulture industries. However, if those thousands of workers can no longer get to New Zealand due to the travel restrictions imposed as a result of the onset of COVID-19, how do we ensure that our horticulture and viticulture industries survive?
In September it was reported that New Zealand had about 14,000 registered seasonal employed workers. That number is now sitting at 5000. Usually, we have about 50,000 overseas travelers/ backpackers who opt to work in this sector, however we are now down to less than 10,000 still in New Zealand who can fill these roles. To make matters worse, workers who would normally travel to New Zealand are also being invited to Australia for its recommenced Seasonal Worker Programme.
Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said if the fruit was not picked, it would put thousands of permanent jobs at risk.
“More than 8000 local people are permanently employed in Hawke’s Bay in and around the horticulture and viticulture sectors, from pack-houses to the port.
“But these permanent roles depend on the trees being planted and pruned and the fruit being picked, all of which is looking more and more difficult.”
So, what can we do about it?
The team at FUTURE LEADERS EMPLOYMENT SERVICES have been working hard to ensure that we educate our clients about the horticulture and viticulture industry and what career options are available beyond seasonal work.
This year we have successfully placed clients in seasonal worker roles in the Hawkes Bay and Alexandra, and we continue to engage with employers and work brokers to achieve win-win solutions. A recent placement saw Sagato and Geroge, two of our young men from Porirua, relocate to the Hawkes Bay to pick apples for Mr Orchard.
Recently Sagato and George spoke to their Youth and Employment Mentor Jay Berwick. Feedback from George and Sagato via Jay was:
George said his work placement with Mr Orchard is good snapshot for him to experience life outside the comforts of home. So far, he is enjoying his independence and the work, and getting used to life away from his family and his gaming device!
Sagato is enjoying the positive change and the newfound independence. He is especially enjoying the routine of waking himself up, cooking for himself, and going out and working in the field independently. This is quite the change for Sagato, being away from his family for the first time at aged 23.
The Ministry of Social Development offers support to encourage more workers into seasonal roles, even for those not on a benefit. Assistance is provided under the Seasonal Work Scheme and is made up of 3 types of support:
- Support for seasonal work, eg:
- daily travel to work
- costs for clothing and work gear
- moving costs if the worker has to move to take up seasonal work
- Accommodation costs up to a maximum of $200 a week, for up to 13 weeks
- An incentive payment. $500 paid halfway through the contract, and $500 paid when work ends.
- More information about this scheme- Seasonal Work Assistance – Work and Income.
Whilst seasonal work may be a role that provides positive routine to move onto other employment, for other’s it may just ignite a spark that provides a fulfilling career. Either way, seasonal work is a positive way for young people to contribute positivity to society; they get the opportunity to learn valuable skills, earn decent money, stay fit, gain work experience and get a decent dose of vitamin D and that has got to be a good thing!