It was months in the planning, but our first alumni event in Shanghai did not disappoint. The focus of the event was a panel discussion on ‘the war on talent in China’. The purpose was to connect Kiwi businesses in China with New Zealand’s talented alumni now living and working in one of the world’s great cities. These energetic young people are the face of China’s future. Two of them, Summer and Ruonan, were the instigators of the event. It was their idea to connect talented young people with the businesses seeking them.

To make sure we were connecting with all Kiwi alumni in the Greater Shanghai area, the North Asia CAPE team worked closely with all New Zealand’s alumni offices. Joel Terzwilliger, from the University of Auckland’s Alumni Relations and Development, worked tirelessly on the details. KEA and the energetic staff at NZ Central in Shanghai helped bring the event to life.

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A slice of NZ in Shanghai

The venue, NZ Central, is a little slice of New Zealand in the centre of Shanghai. The lift up to NZ Central is resplendent with the sounds of the New Zealand bush. Outside the lift, an espresso bar and a deck with a barbecue are guaranteed to make expatriate Kiwis feel right at home.

On the night, NZ Central thrummed with energy as three hundred people made new friends, exchanged views, and caught up with old mates. The North Asia CAPE’s Business Director, Anne French, commented: “There can be no better demonstration of the new China than this. Our alumni are confident, sophisticated, successful young people, busy making the China of the future.”

An opportunity to connect

Guergana Guermanoff, the NZ Consul-General in Shanghai, spoke about New Zealand’s aspirations in the China-NZ trading relationship, and explained to the audience how the North Asia CAPE fitted in to the big picture. Trade Commissioner Damon Paling discussed the talent question at length, explaining how things have changed in the past decade. Chinese talent does not come cheap, he said. “Those days are over.”

But engaging local staff with specialist skills, especially young Chinese with a Kiwi connection through their education, is a great way for a New Zealand company to build their Chinese business. Beachheads Adviser Sarah Gibbs came down from Beijing to explain her role in helping Kiwi businesses find their feet in China.

The audience came up with practical ideas about how Kiwi businesses could engage better with the opportunities in China. And when the networking resumed, the room resounded with connections being made and opportunities explored.

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