Councils join forces to grow regional employment and economic outcomes

The Brighton, Central Highlands, Derwent Valley and Southern Midlands Councils have launched a unique workforce development initiative to increase employment opportunities for people in the four municipalities while at the same time provide potential employers with suitably trained, employment-ready employees.

FOUR Tasmanian councils comprising the South Central Sub-region are joining forces to improve job opportunities and business growth for their respective municipal areas.

The Brighton, Central Highlands, Derwent Valley and Southern Midlands Councils have launched a unique workforce development initiative to increase employment opportunities for people in the four municipalities while at the same time provide potential employers with suitably trained, employment-ready employees.

Following a grant of almost $400,000 from the Tasmanian Community Fund, a full-time coordinator has been appointed for an initial three-year term and has begun working with the councils to improve employment outcomes in the sub-region.

From left Derwent Valley Mayor Ben Shaw, who is chair of the workforce development coordinator group, with new workplace development coordinator Anthony McConnon and Brighton Mayor Tony Foster.

The newly appointed workplace development coordinator, Anthony McConnon, was most recently a senior manager with employment consultants Searson Buck and has extensive experience in a range of industry sectors.

The South Central Sub-region workforce development project is based on strategies and initiatives recommended in a study undertaken by consultants KPMG on behalf of the four councils and released at the end of 2017.

Chair of the South Central Sub-region, Brighton Council’s general manager James Dryburgh, said the KPMG Report analysed the municipalities’ economic and social profile, current workforce capability and capacity and key existing educational offerings, projected future workforce requirements, and identified common and industry-specific strategies and initiatives to address workforce capability and capacity gaps. 

It recommended an employment services model, matching job seekers with vacancies through appropriate training which is the new co-ordinator’s key role.

KPMG’s Report encouraged greater collaboration between the region’s councils, education providers, training organisations, Job Active providers and industry leaders to collectively and innovatively address shared regional workforce issues. 

Mr Dryburgh said given the sub-region’s very low socio-economic profile, the report concluded there was a significant potential workforce that, because of social and educational disadvantage, had been unable to take advantage of the growing employment opportunities in the region. Conversely, the report found employers in existing and emerging industries were frustrated at not being able to find sufficient suitably trained and qualified employees locally. 

“Implementing the recommendations in the report will be crucial to lift the sub-region’s population out of this low socio-economic status and enable local businesses to grow by employing more local people. 

“Our over-arching aim is to reduce social and economic disadvantage and contribute to the building of a resilient and engaged local community.

“This will be achieved by matching job seekers with appropriate training and, subsequently, identified employment opportunities. It will also match employer requirements with training opportunities to enable the regional workforce to be job-ready as employment opportunities arise, and connect individual local job seekers with relevant local employers. 

“Our goal is to significantly lower the unemployment rate in our sub-region while at the same time, increase the number of local jobs filled by locals, raise the capacity of the regional workforce to meet employer needs and increase the ability of local businesses to obtain appropriately skilled staff, locally.

“This will demonstrate its value to employers, councils and the community with a major benefit of getting people out of disadvantage and inequity.

“One of Mr McConnon’s first tasks is to proactively engage with employers as well as education and training providers, and this is already underway.”

Mr McConnon said the response from his first days in the new role was very encouraging as he focussed on the urgent harvesting needs of local agricultural industries.

“I’m particularly looking at the labour shortfall and required skills in the fruit-picking sector so that we can identify the numbers of people required and point towards the appropriate training.

“This is already providing an indication of what can be achieved through this program and it is extremely reassuring,” he said.

Mr Dryburgh said the continuation of the initiative beyond the initial three years would likely see the program administered or supported by Skills Tasmania and the sub-region group.

“As a result of this initiative it is expected training courses relevant to local industries will have been specifically developed for delivery within the region, with courses designed to provide local, skilled employees required by employers.

“As a consequence, a significant number of local jobs will be filled by local people appropriately trained and skilled through connections made by the project or through training opportunities directly initiated by the project. Importantly, local people will have opportunities to undertake relevant training designed to maximise their chances of securing ongoing employment within the region.

“As well as greater regional workforce participation, we are looking to see improved education outcomes through increased involvement in workforce development and more attractive, proven employment pathways for local school students.”

Mr Dryburgh said the South Central Sub-region workforce development project was a major initiative by the four councils and the people of the sub-region, and the grant from the Tasmanian Community Fund had enabled this important vision to be realised.

“Its success will go a long way towards removing historical inequities and provide significant benefits for students, job seekers, employers and the economy of our sub-region.”