Tech border exception welcome but more training key

In the Media
December 13, 2021

The announcement of 600 new technology worker visa exemptions is welcomed by the kiwiSaaS Advisory Council, but it also calls for quick scaling of local work-ready tech skills programmes.

Led by Callaghan Innovation in conjunction with New Zealand Trade & Enterprise through the Digital Industry Transformation Plan (ITP), the newly launched kiwiSaaS initiative aims to facilitate an industry-led SaaS community for businesses to share learnings, expertise, and connections to help grow New Zealand’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) sector.

The kiwiSaaS Advisory Council includes Bruce Gordon (former chair and CEO of Pushpay and SaaS investor), leading New Zealand SaaS Investor and Director Serge van Dam, Aaron Ward (CEO of AskNicely), and Linda Jenkinson (Director, entrepreneur, and the first New Zealand woman to list a company on the NASDAQ).

Bruce Gordon of the kiwiSaaS Advisory Council says that fixing New Zealand’s SaaS talent problem is more complex than issuing a few more visas.

“These newly announced 600 tech visa exemptions are a much needed temporary fix. In the long term, immigration is only one part of the solutions of the tech talent shortage,” says Gordon. “To put it into perspective, we’d need 3,000 visas to fill the tech vacancies in New Zealand currently. We need to grow more local talent.”

“Immigration is best utilised to bring in strategic SaaS business experts with entrepreneurial skills. The core focus should be to attract global SaaS talent with expertise in scaling high-growth companies. Immigration is our best tool here to bring in the experts that can develop new Kiwi talent and teach our SaaS community how to create globally successful SaaS businesses.”

“Coupled with this, the real key to supercharging New Zealand’s growing multi-billion-dollar SaaS sector lies within investing in developing local technical SaaS expertise,” says Gordon. “This involves strong industry-led onboarding and technical SaaS skills training to create pathways for Kiwis into SaaS careers, and use immigration to bring in those with SaaS entrepreneurial skills.”

“Dev Academy and Mission Ready HQ are two great examples of industry-led SaaS training and education, especially as they train workers at the speed of the industry. Dev Academy learners graduate as work-ready programmers in just 15 weeks, with 86 percent of graduates working in web development within six months after graduation.” 

“Imagine if we quickly scaled work-ready tech skills programmes like this to fill those 3,000 vacancies instead of relying on immigration. The average wage in SaaS is $105k per year, or almost twice the average salary in New Zealand” says Gordon. “For every 1,000 SaaS workers another $100m is injected into the economy in spending and tax in wages by New Zealanders annually. That could be another $300m for our economy if we can train a local workforce to fill those 3,000 tech vacancies.”

Group discussion at SaaS event

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