Job hunters willing to leave the Illawarra

Hundreds of Illawarra residents at the Shellharbour Jobs and Skills Expo today demonstrated they were willing to ‘‘go anywhere’’ to find a stable job.

And for most, ‘‘anywhere’’ was the West Australian Pilbara region, where mineral mines such as the Roy Hill Mine Project offer the promise of big salaries and fast money.

Corrimal’s Jennifer Winter, 32, is a trained dump and haul truck driver but hasn’t been able to find permanent work in her field in the Illawarra for five years.

Fed up with constant job searching, Ms Winter said she and partner George Sheean, who also works in mining, were ready to give up on their beloved beach lifestyle and move their children across the country.

‘‘I’d go to Western Australia - I’d go anywhere - because there’s just no consistent, regular work down here for me and I’ve been looking constantly, every day for five years,’’ Ms Winter said.

‘‘It’s hard work and looking for so long brings you down because you get nowhere.’’

‘‘I would prefer to stay in the Illawarra, definitely.’’

‘‘We both love the beach and outdoors, and it’s great for the kids, but it’s about the money - we need it to survive and for our kids and home.’’

For Andrew Anderson and Mark Bell, who travelled from Mollymook and Milton to attend the expo, getting a job in the mines was their retirement plan.

Mr Bell is recently unemployed and said mining work would set him and his wife up for the rest of their lives.

‘‘This would be a retirement set-up for me, because I’ve got another 20 or so years of work, so it would be great to get over there and get some money and then travel round the world for the next 20 years,’’ he said.

‘‘I’d get on the plane tomorrow.’’

Mr Anderson is less certain about packing up his South Coast life, but said he would be willing to fly in and fly out if planes were able to leave from Albion Park.

‘‘I would only go if the situation arises that they could get me there from here, I wouldn’t move to Perth to live,’’ he said.

Albion Park’s Mario Jovanov, 39, attended the expo armed with pages of experience and skills certificates he has obtained over the past 12 months.

The trained chef works at Jamberoo Bowling Club, but has spent the past year getting his truck licence and completing mining infrastructure and drilling courses to prepare himself for a new career in mining.

‘‘I’m not joking about this, and I didn’t just come here to window shop - I’m serious,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m not in a position where I’m doing nothing now, but I want a change and something that has more shifts and more money and I want to do it before I turn 40.’’

Mr Jovanov said he didn’t know if he would pack his family up and move to Perth but would consider fly-in, fly-out work if it was available.

‘‘It’s either that or do nothing,’’ he said.

Gilmore MP Joanna Gash, who organised a bus to the expo from Nowra, said interest in the Roy Hill Project jobs exceeded her expectations.

There was a long line for the company’s information stall snaking around the stadium all day and two planned recruitment sessions filled so fast that two more were added to accommodate demand.

‘‘We’re hoping that if we get enough people who are willing to go, they will use the Albion Park airport, but that means we need at least 200 people from the Illawarra,’’ Ms Gash said.

In Thursday's Mercury: Find out how many job seekers are a step closer to securing work after the expo.

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