Retaining young people in local industries

Wodonga City Council has developed a project that connects employers to young people to help improve local retention rates, particularly in the manufacturing industry.

The 'Youth To Industry' project is an initiative of Council's economic development team and youth services team.

The project received $8000 funding from the North East Industry Workforce Development Group (NEIWDG) and was carried out by a consultant from the Regional Development Company (RDC).

It brought together five manufacturing companies, NEIWDG, the North East Local Learning and Employment Network (NELLEN) and around 30 young people aged between 15 and 24 years.

Council's Acting Manager Development Matt Taylor said Council, in conjunction with local manufacturers, established a trial initiative to develop better links and employment opportunities for young people in the manufacturing sector.

"The project has arisen as a result of research conducted for the North East Industry Workforce Development Strategy," he said.

"While manufacturing is the largest industry sector in Wodonga, it is significantly under-represented by the number of young people transitioning into employment."

Wodonga has shown robust population growth during the past decade, with a higher percentage of 15 to 24 year-old residents than other Victorian regional centres.

Mr Taylor said retaining young people was an ongoing challenge for the City, creating a greater level of awareness of opportunities to transition them into employment.

The Youth To Industry pilot project was a great success, according to RDC consultant Susan Benedyka.

"Already, there have been tangible shifts and outcomes for two young people who were involved in the project," she said.

"One has applied for an apprenticeship and another is considering working in manufacturing while studying at university."

One of the participants said: "I went into it with no idea about the industry – I thought it was low pay, low skilled, labouring, dirty, hands on type work. It pays more than I thought. There is much more machinery than hands on work."

Manufacturers involved in the pilot project included Parker Hannifin, Mars Petcare, Visy Board, Border Mail Printing and Wilson Transformer Company.

Parker Hannifin's learning and development specialist Alwyn Brunton is a great supporter of the project and of generating local employment.

"We got involved to strengthen our links with the community, the schools and the potential pool of employees," he said.

"We do have trouble sourcing staff in specialist areas in the factory, but Parker Hannifin is committed to offering traineeships and pathways for young people."

Council's acting Manager Development Matt Taylor can be contacted on (02) 6022 9300.