I’ve just returned to Auckland after spending a couple of days mooching around the Christchurch recruitment industry and it’s hard to know quite how to start this blog post. What an amazing city. Brought to its knees by the devastating earthquake back in February 2011, this place still has a long, long way to go to fully recover. Seeing a million pictures of the red-zoned CBD on the news doesn’t remotely prepare you for the strangeness of seeing it with your own eyes. Up close it is both fascinating and sobering. Buildings remain torn apart, twisted and crumbling with small pockets of brightly-vested builders chipping away to deconstruct the old city bit by careful bit.
But further away from the CBD, to the various surrounding suburbs where businesses have randomly scattered, the sentiment remains. Pavements and roads bear scars and holes where they were unable to resist the pull and tear of natural forces. Large squares of reduced rubble and gravel punctuate developed urban and retail areas where buildings once stood. Structures that survived frequently boast an array of resin filled cracks. And always, wherever you are, you feel wedged between the grandness of the surrounding Port Hills and the smashed, ruined hub of the old CBD with its thin clutch of cranes a constant reminder of the City’s sickly focal point below.
As for the recruitment industry, I have never encountered a more humble and grounded group of people in our industry. Resourcefulness is a trait highly regarded in a successful recruiter but this lot have it in spades. Where many of us in the corporate recruitment world have grown soft, being pandered to our demands for marbled, glass and chrome towers where we perch, lording over our CBD domains with trendy cafes, shops and restaurants all on tap, the Cantabrian recruiters fled their CBD when it fell apart. It has created an interesting uniqueness to the recruitment culture down there. A small recruitment community of around 150 recruitment consultants is based in an eclectic mix of low-rise commercial parks, UK-style high street shop fronts and lonely office blocks on the fringes of the battered CBD surrounded by quiet streets that once hummed with traffic, commerce and business.
But the most frequent option many of the recruitment industry plumped for was to simply work from home and, nearly 18 months on, many still remain. With technology being the great enabler in our industry, this is a place where it has been put to its greatest use. Cloud computing servers, remote access CRM systems, mobile recruiting technology and e-mail hosting smartphones mean working from home is very do-able indeed, and in a place like Christchurch it doesn’t carry the same stigma of small-time business. Driving along Fendalton Road back to the airport house after house displayed a range of signs indicating that behind those residential doors were law firms, doctors, accountants, ad agencies and, yes, recruitment firms.
Next week will see the publishing of the “City Plan”, the blue-print for how the newly rebuilt Christchurch of the future will look. At last people will gain a sense of direction, purpose and perspective, knowing where big business will be, where retail will be, where entertainment will be, and what it will all look like. It’s an amazing opportunity never previously available to a developed country (ignoring the UK’s effort with Milton Keynes!) It’s a blank piece of paper for urban designers to create something new, modern, unique and cool. And I think they will grab this chance with both hands.
As for the recruitment industry, this presents huge opportunity too. Of course, demand for construction workers, trades people and engineers will grow (and contrary to popular belief this hasn’t kicked off yet as everyone is still waiting on the new city plan and the insurance money to be released). But as the City recovers, rebuilds and grows across all sectors, this will mean large skills shortages across all sectors. Recruitment is tricky in Christchurch. This is pretty much the capital of the kiwi “Do It Yourself” culture and that sentiment is carried on into the recruitment activities of businesses. There’s also not much money to go around right now. However, that will change over the next couple of years and, along with plans soon to be released, this is probably going to be one of the coolest modern cities to live in in the world.
Skills shortages will need to be covered by imported talent and the recruitment industry is no exception. If you’re a recruiter and you’d like to learn more about future opportunities in Christchurch, please get in touch.