Canterbury's rural sector employment boom trumps rebuild
Highly skilled professionals are focusing on where the Canterbury employment market will endure in the long term – and it’s not the rebuild, says Decipher Group director Leanne Crozier. 
In a recent annual business review, Christchurch-based HR and recruitment company, Decipher Group, found that 40 percent of all senior management and executive level placements were for positions in the rural sector. 
Crozier says career progression is consistently ranked by candidates as their number one priority, and it’s the rural sector that is providing the majority of senior management and executive level roles. 
“There is buoyancy across the whole agribusiness sector and it’s due to the fact that the rural economy is strong and people are feeling confident about business growth and expansion,” Crozier says. 
“Rural organisations know they need to bring in highly qualified candidates to take their business to the next level, and this desire is creating excellent employment and career development opportunities in Canterbury.” 
What has often been perceived as Canterbury’s rural-urban divide is now starting to close as increasing numbers of highly skilled urban professionals look to the rural sector for jobs. 
The development of some of Canterbury’s largest water resources and the growing opportunity to generate higher value-added products is giving agribusinesses and producers renewed confidence. The result is a perfect environment for business development and expansion. 
Richie Smith, director of several high profile agribusiness companies in Canterbury including Ngai Tahu Farming, says agriculture has always delivered significant opportunity for skilled professionals. 
“The agricultural sector has never been marketed as a particularly high profile or sexy place to work but that’s only because people haven’t been exposed to it,” Smith says. 
“It’s always been viewed as a slightly more conservative or understated workforce as opposed to being a stockbroker in London or a share trader in the 80s but as far as I’m concerned it’s an exciting place to be.” 
The Canterbury Development Corporation’s (CDC) latest agriculture sector research has reinforced the value and importance of Christchurch’s links to Canterbury’s rural economy. 
Exports worth $4.5 billion are flowing through the Christchurch economy each year from Canterbury farms and farming businesses. Canterbury’s primary production contributes $1.5 billion to the national GDP.   
The region’s major irrigation developments including Central Plains Water, Rangitata South, Waimakariri Irrigation and Hunter Downs are paving the way for increased agricultural diversity, and new technology is fine-tuning precision agriculture techniques for better production outcomes. 
Smith says many agribusiness companies are embracing new technology as a method for improving business and basic procedures.  
“All the new technology that’s coming into agriculture is changing the face of how the industry operates from basic production to environmental management – and while it’s still in its infancy and quite fragmented – it’s an area that requires a whole new set of skills,” Smith says.
“Lawyers, accountants, IT developers, mechanical engineers, and researchers – all these professionals who you wouldn’t normally link with agriculture, are now finding significant career development opportunities in, or in association with, the food production industry. 
“It’s an industry which needs some really clever people to develop it, implement it and run it.” 
The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s short-term employment prospects for 2014-2016 report showed overall employment demand will continue to rise strongly in response to economic growth,associated mainly with the Canterbury rebuild over the next three years –peaking in the year to March 2015. 
Opportunities for lower-skilled workers are expected to account for about 30 percent of employment growth over the period. 
In comparison, growth of highly skilled jobs (senior executives, managers and professionals) will be higher than the national employment growth – either at or above 3.3 percent per annum. 
This will account for more than 50 percent of the overall employment growth within the next three years.
Decipher Group is currently working alongside several high profile agribusiness companies, searching the country and the globe for the perfect people to lead their businesses forward. 
“We’re busier than we have ever been and have expanded into recruiting directors for a range of governance roles,” Crozier says. 
“Replacing leaders or finding people to fill new roles is a critical part of the business cycle because without the right people it’s impossible to grow a successful and sustainable business.”