1492548082320 - Staff numbers soar as Sealord prepares for another hoki season

Staff numbers soar as Sealord prepares for another hoki season

While Sealord prepares for its annual hoki-catching bonanza, a once in a lifetime Scandanavian excursion awaits a new recruit on the company’s new state of the art vessel.

 Hoki is one of the most commercially valuable fisheries in New Zealand, with a market value of more than $800 million. Sealord owns 30 per cent of New Zealand’s hoki quota and  caught nearly 58,000 tonnes in 2015.

Although fishing has been under way for the past fortnight, hoki season officially starts in June and runs until the end of September.

Dawn Cooper HR manager, Sealord Fishing said there had been a rise in processing levels due to sales demand and the cuts of fish required.

READ MORE: * Fishing companies laud ‘best season in many years’ * Hoki production cut to cost 44 jobs in Nelson * Union to tackle Sealord over pay rates for Nelson jobs

“It’s roughly the same volume that goes through each year – it just depends on the amount of manpower needed for it,” she said.

Recruitment advisor Ben Cave said the company received about 750 applications last year for hoki season positions, with 350 taken on to fill the temporary land-based factory roles.

“We do have quite a few people who have had friends doing it in the past and they’ve arrived in NZ now and are quite keen to be a part of it,” he said.

“But we don’t take everyone – it’s a pretty strenuous process through our assessment centre to pass.”

The recruiting process involved groups of 20-30 spending several hours on-site at Sealord’s assessment centre, where applicants meet with the production leads who will oversee their work if successful.

Pre-employment medical and drug tests follow the induction training. Cooper said the drug test failure rate in the last two years had been 0.98 per cent.

Final background checks round out the testing phase. Cave said the company usually resisted the urge to delve beyond the traditional methods. 

“We don’t essentially use social media at this stage for recruitment. Sometimes for your more higher level roles it’s not uncommon to look at LinkedIn or Facebook pages but with processing that amount of people, not at this stage.”

 Cave said from mid-May, the company would take on about 40 staff per week, which would continue until the end of June. Further staff would then be sourced through a recruitment agency as required.

While Nelsonians made up a good portion of applicants, Cooper said there were many from around New Zealand who used the hoki season as part of a work cycle that saw them alternate between positions such as fruit picking and meatworks throughout the year.

Most hoki staff would initially be put on the morning shift, which runs from 6am-2:30pm, Monday to Friday, while an afternoon shift, running from 3pm-11pm would begin in mid-June.

Cave said there would be an even split of about 150 staff on each of the shifts.

Cooper said the company was interested in seeing a seasonal visa implemented which would allow a five-month stay for those looking to work here.

“The only thing with a student visa is that they can only work 20 hours a week. It’s the one’s who can work full-time for three months that we’re after,” she said.

In terms of overall staff numbers, Cooper said Sealord had “stabilised” in recent times, but was limited by the quota they could catch. 

“You’ll always have the vessels and I understand the turnover there is not significant, but in terms of the factories, our turnover is about 2 per cent,” she said.

With their new $70 million factory vessel less than a year out from service, Sealord is also looking to make big appointments in the coming months, starting with a chief engineer.

Cave said that the specialised role would require a minimum of a Marine Engineer Class (MEC) 4 qualification as well as the necessary fishing vessel experience.

Leading a team of engineers on a technologically-advanced vessel, the successful applicant will travel to the Simek shipbuilders yard in Flekkefjord, Norway later this year, to familiarise themselves with their new custom-built floating workplace.

Cave said the chance to visit would “a once in a lifetime opportunity”. 

While Sealord would look to New Zealand and within its own company in filling the role, Cave said there were plans to advertise further abroad as part of getting the best person for the job.