Recruitment experts believe the looming threat of a brain drain in New Zealand will be a "nightmare" for employers - and they're warning the worst is yet to come.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) estimates 50,000 Kiwis will leave New Zealand as the international border reopens.
It comes after the Government announced last month that, after two years of being locked away amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the international border would finally reopen to Australians from April 12 and visa waiver tourists from May 1.
Beyond Recruitment general manager Ben Pearson told Newshub they are "very worried" and the people looking at leaving New Zealand "are the last people we want to see go".
"What we have got here is this group of people leaving with five or six years of experience. They're very highly valuable employees," he said.
"They're right at the sweet spot in their career where they're accelerating, highly productive, generally high performers and at that point where they're adding a lot of value to organisations.
"To be fair, these are the last people we want to see go."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday she wasn't worried about a post-COVID brain drain because she thinks New Zealand will continue to attract highly-skilled individuals as well.
"We have always had the experience of New Zealanders going abroad for opportunities and experiences and also coming back."
But Pearson isn't convinced and warns businesses the worst is yet to come.
"We've got a little bit of time - I think some people will go this year, more will go next year - but in 2024 I think we are really going to see it hit, almost an exodus. That is what we are predicting," he said.
Pearson urged businesses to look at employees who have transferable skills.
"We say there isn't a talent shortage there is a skill shortage," he said.
"We've actually got plenty of really, really good people in New Zealand but organisations have to embrace people with transferable skills and get their recruitment on track to take advantage of people with innate high-performance attributes."
Pearson urged businesses to move away from what he called an old style of recruitment and focus on hiring people that can be developed over time.
"If you think about old fashioned recruiting, employers used to look for people with X amount of years of experience and a tick box amount of skill sets," he said.
"In today's day in age when we are really looking for high-performance attributes, I think someone who has got two to three years' experience, three or four of the required skills but is really teachable, really resilient - those are the employees of the future."
Watch full interviews above.