The New Zealand construction industry is, as its name suggests, concerned with the development of buildings and infrastructure. This includes everything from residential homes to corporate skyscrapers, as well as all infrastructural projects, including bridges, roads, tunnels, freeways, dams, marinas, and so forth. The industry includes an array of civil engineers, architects, designers, consultants, surveyors, conveyancers, and trade professionals.
While the end goal of a construction project may differ, the process behind its completion is relatively consistent. First, a client – be it a government department, a developer, a local council, or a private individual will decide what to build, and consider timelines and any budgetary constraints. They will then hire consultants (often after a tender process), who use their expertise, as architects or engineers, to carry out the design of the project with respect to any special requirements (for example, that the project stay within a certain budget or achieve certain aesthetic goals). Generally, the consultants oversee the subsequent hiring of the professionals who actually build the project – these include engineers, foremen, labourers, trade professionals, surveyors, site managers, and so on. A career in the construction industry could involve being present for any of the stages described above. For example, you might be a civil engineer hired by a firm like Aurecon to design new infrastructure projects and perform feasibility reports. Alternatively, you could contribute to the industry in a financial or administrative role (most larger construction companies have in-house legal and accountancy teams).
The construction industry operates in both the private and public sectors, and has three main goals: “residential building, non-residential building and engineering construction”. These activities are found across New Zealand and, as a result, the construction industry has a strong presence in both rural and urban areas. Having said that, between 2012 and 2015, as the mining boom decelerated, the distribution of construction sector employees changed markedly.
The entry requirements for a job in the construction sector change significantly from role to role. For example, to join a construction firm as a civil engineer, you will first need to complete a bachelor degree (usually with honours). Administrative and supervisory jobs in this sector often require specific degrees and tertiary training. For example, project managers tend to have studied engineering or acquired specific postgraduate qualifications (such as a Master of Project Management).
Research conducted by GradNewZealand has shown that, among university graduates who work in the construction industry, 60 per cent have studied engineering, maths, IT, or computer science. This fits with information on the government’s job outlook website, which lists the essential skills of construction industry workers as including critical thinking, complex problem solving, mathematics – all skills developed within STEM degrees. The rest of the roles normally comprise of property and built environment degrees, with a smattering of business degrees in business roles.
The average starting salary for entry-level graduates in the New Zealand construction and property services sector is $66,000 per annum. They generally work around 46 hours a week.