Creating opportunities builds a better Mount Isa

Article image - Creating opportunities builds a better Mount Isa

Council faces a number of challenges due to Mount Isa’s geographical location and economic climate precipitated by the city’s isolated position in the heart of North West Queensland. One which has the greatest impact on Council’s operations and services is being able to attract and retain qualified staff. To overcome this issue, Council has focused on the resources available in its own back yard and worked hard to nurture employment and training programs in cooperation with local employment agencies. The rewards have proven to be many.

Council works closely with Isa Skills – the local Job Futures member and Job Network agency – to identify new and ongoing opportunities to increase employment through traineeships and Community Jobs Programs for the long term unemployed and indigenous job seekers.

The major success story has been Isa Skills’ contribution to the multi million dollar Buchanan Park Events Complex. Isa Skills worked closely with Council in the construction of an approximately two kilometre perimeter fence around the 90 acre reserve. The project was carried out over a 12 month period in two stages, with each stage employing 12 trainees. These trainees developed skills in fencing and general construction and also gained some experience in the horticultural field through laying irrigation systems and planting. The most pleasing outcome was that over 60 per cent secured employment after the completion of the programs.

Another project which has been a cooperative success is the redevelopment of the Frank Aston Museum Site. The original museum, built by volunteer miners and Rotarians in the early 1970s is in the process of being renovated into a community cultural venue, underground markets and a soundshell amphitheatre where performers can entertain in front of the panorama of lights on the mine skyline. The project has initiated nine traineeships providing skills in construction and horticulture.

As a Council committed to employing locally and promoting skill development through training, Mount Isa City Council, in cooperation with Isa Skills, have identified a number of upcoming projects which will create traineeships and employment opportunities. The preliminary development of the parkland surrounding the Police Citizens Youth Club and the Leichhardt River Community Recreation Precinct will create nine traineeships through Community Jobs Plans. Beyond these projects Council are already focusing on the future, inspired by the opportunities created in the city, for both employers and these jobseekers who have the initiative to break the unemployment cycle through participation in these programs to become skilled ‘potential’ employees.

Mount Isa City Council also offers a cadetship program to assist undergraduate students which includes the incentive of reimbursing HECS if they remain employed by Council in the long term. Council’s human resource management aim is to encourage the long term retention of suitably qualified staff, which reduces training costs and the loss of knowledge which occurs with staff turnover, allowing Mount Isa City Council to function more efficiently and effectively.

While it is a challenge, not only for Local Government but also for industrial and commercial operators, the key to finding a solution is creating opportunities through staff incentives and professional development.