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Training key to rural development

The ability of council Economic Development (ED) officers to be early adopters and at the cutting edge of innovation is important for the development of country Victorian towns and communities, according to a research project undertaken by Rural Councils Victoria.

Rural Councils Victoria (RCV) Chair, Councillor Ken Gale said the Economic Development Capacity and Skills audit undertaken at the end of 2011 identified two key areas for improvement; access to resources to fund training and development for their economic development staff, and staying abreast of changes in information technology and social media.

As part of the project, RCV will work with Economic Development Australia (EDA) and other key stakeholders to develop targeted, regionally located programs to meet the needs of Economic Development staff.

Councillor Gale said this is just one of the recommendations in the RCV’s Economic Development/ICT Learning and Skills Development Strategy, which was finalised at the end of June.

“We’ll be looking to work with others to develop a tool kit for Economic Development practitioners and establish a mentoring program. We will also renew the focus of our annual Rural Summit as an opportunity to showcase better practice economic development initiatives to our members,” he said.

Cr Gale said the value of economic development initiatives to small councils could not be underestimated.

“A small council relies heavily on economic development as the corner stone of the municipality’s overall development, in terms of bringing people and work into our communities, so we want the people who do this vital work to be supported in their roles. Following the audit we commissioned more research, which highlighted the specialist training available.

“Many councils just don’t have the resources to spend in this area and research revealed that a regional approach to economic development is a viable alternative and provides economies for councils,” Councillor Gale concluded.