Building the rural workforce

Article image - Building the rural workforce Hugh Cluff, Apprentice Mechanic; David Neeves, General Manager; Max Hannelly, IT Trainee; Daniel Organ, Jockey Club/Golf Club trainee Greenkeeper.

While many rural communities are continuing to face challenges with sourcing skilled workers, Gilgandra Shire Council in central New South Wales is supporting local young people and building skills within its own workforce.

With the release of recent census data, Gilgandra Shire Council was alarmed by the changes in its population base between the ages of 19-29.

While Gilgandra met the state averages for most age groups, it was striking to see the significant drop in this sector.

General Manager David Neeves said there are significant benefits when working and living in rural Australia.  

“The lifestyle, cost of living and opportunity for prosperity are just a few great reasons to live in rural Australia, however we are seeing a withdrawal of younger adults from our community which is probably mirrored across many rural communities”.

This withdrawal is not new but it comes at a time when many businesses are screaming out for skilled employees and Gilgandra Shire Council is no exception.

Council employs some 230 people across a range of traditional local government and specialised community services such as aged care, youth and disability services.

“As the largest employer in Gilgandra, Council wanted to set the example and get back to local government being the backbone to skill development in communities”, Mr Neeves said.

A revised organisational structure approved recently by Council has a focus on retention of youth and developing skills in the Gilgandra community and sees structured trainee and apprenticeships roles increase from one to seven.

In addition, Council recently secured an arrangement with a Dubbo based IT provider to have an IT trainee based at Council three days per week.

Council is also assisting the Gilgandra Jockey Club and Gilgandra Golf Club to provide skill-building opportunities for their jointly employed apprentice groundskeeper.  Both employees are local Gilgandra residents.

Mr Neeves said he is excited about all the new opportunities, particularly the Student Nurse position which is in partnership with Charles Sturt University (CSU).

“Council will be providing a scholarship to the student whilst studying at CSU; a paid part-time job at Council’s Cooee Lodge Aged Care Hostel will form part of the arrangement and, once the student has successfully finished their studies, Council will guarantee a job as a registered nurse in aged care.  

“Council will also pay 25 per cent of the student’s HECS debt for every year they are engaged in full time employment with Council thereafter,” Mr Neeves stated.