Fighting the rural brain drain

The City of Mount Gambier is showing the way to providing career pathways and opportunities for local young people.

Rural youth migration, or the ‘rural brain drain’, impacts on many regional communities in Australia, with young people heading to more populated areas in search of new opportunities.

City of Mount Gambier CEO, Mark McShane, says a united effort is needed to help generate local career opportunities.

“We firmly believe that the grass is greener this side of the fence, but it’s all about giving the next generation reasons to stay.”

The City of Mount Gambier currently has 10 employees aged 24 and under working in a range of departments, and will soon be on the lookout for a new school-based trainee for the Mount Gambier Public Library.

“We have been really lucky with the quality of young kids coming out of school, and look forward to continuing this program in 2015,” said Library manager Vicki Hutchinson.

“Their attitude is fantastic, they learn really quickly, and they bring enthusiasm and energy along with different ideas.

“They’re IT experts and they have so much patience and such a mature approach to dealing with people, which has really impressed all of the staff here.”

Current library trainees Hayley Holder and Brendan Bachmann are both juggling school studies with working at the library after class, on weekends and during school holidays.

“They are both finishing off their Certificate II at the same time as their schoolwork, which I think shows real maturity and dedication, and when they finish their studies and look for permanent employment, they have already had two years of work experience, with a good grounding in customer service and library operations.”

Meanwhile, Operational services director, Daryl Sexton, has his own band of ‘young guns’ transforming Mount Gambier’s outdoor spaces; Jake Schutz and Luke Hutchinson are employed in the Construction and Maintenance division, Hayden Cassar is a Building Inspector, and Sam Egan, Amechai Bawden and Cameron Axleby Young work in Parks and Gardens.

“What is encouraging is that there’s some really, really good young people out there looking to get into the workforce and that is evidenced by the quality of young people who we have now employed, they have been terrific finds,” said Mr Sexton.

“These guys are developing really well and learning from our employees that have been here for a while, but young people have a different perspective to older people, so it’s always nice to have a blend, and respect each other’s points of view.

“Like everyone else, we have an ageing workforce, and it’s certainly important to firstly, give young people an opportunity, and secondly, equip them with skills which they can carry through their working life.”