A 11 point plan to address skill shortages in the Illawarra and create jobs has evolved from a series webinars hosted by RDA Illawarra during the recent COVID-19 lockdown.
The webinars started following a conversation with Whitlam MP Stephen Jones who said it was a big issue for the region. And have been supported by Cunningham MP Sharon Bird and the business community.
RDA Illawarra chief executive Debra Murphy said a jobs drive was the first tangible outcome that came from the initial skills shortage roundtable. Since then progress has steadily been made on developing further strategies for a regional action plan.
Ms Murphy said pledges from employers with hospitality jobs being are being shared on-line by KITL and job seekers are already being engaged from this week.
And she said a jobs hiring event targeting the hospitality sector will be held at Osborne Park, Wollongong on December 7 from 10am - 2pm.
A second skills shortage roundtable was held on November 10 and more stages of the plan will soon be rolled out. Progress will be reported to the the third roundtable on December 3.
The 11 point plan includes five immediate actions;
- Hospitality jobs expo
- Identifying tangible solutions
- Collaboration on the development of better pathways from school-to-jobs
- Coordinating and communicating existing public/private jobs programs
- More research into the on-going demand for skills
The plan also includes six long term actions;
- Secure resources and/or funding for programs
- Industry and tertiary education engagement
- Connecting students and employers
- Fund tailored training/pathway solutions for specific skill issues
- Address barriers to working in the region
- Initiate a targeted skilled migration program
Ms Murphy said the biggest skill shortages were in the hospitality and accommodation sector, trades in heavy industry and nursing, health and aged care.
"There is a lot of unskilled demand as well," she said.
Grill'd Wollongong's Lube Markovski said one of the reasons why there was so many jobs unfilled in the hospitality sector is that after receiving government support during lockdown and not being able to spend that money many casual workers were planning to use what they have saved to enjoy Christmas and summer out of lockdown before returning to the workforce.
"We have been spending a small fortune on recruitment but we are just not getting the level of response that we used to get prior to COVID when we were getting hundreds of applications and it was a real process trying to go through them all. From what I am hearing everyone is in the same boat," he said.
Mr Markovksi said another reason was that many uni students from regional areas and overseas had not yet returned to Wollongong after lockdown and may not do so until February or March next year.
He said those students make up a large number of casual workers in the hospitality sector.
Mr Markovksi said his daughter Melissa Gorgievski runs Charli & Kate hair salons in Wollongong and Shellharbour and is also finding it hard to find hairstylists because of a national skills shortage in that industry. There just aren't enough trained hair stylists available for work to help meet the post COVID demand.
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