Providing school leavers with an opportunity is good for business…and the community

February 8, 2018
by Lawrie Breen

I love living in regional Australia. As someone who was born and bred in the Central West, I’m a huge fan and a believer in everything our region has to offer.

However, it’s a reality that trying to keep regional Australia a vibrant and exciting place to live doesn’t always come easy. Especially when you look at helping the younger members of our communities to find opportunities to live and work in the place they grew up. The lure of the city can be a hard one to resist, and recent statistics show that our population in regional Australia is aging.

So what can we do to provide the right opportunities to our 18-24 year olds that will help keep them local?

Focus on the skills gap

There’s a lot of press around the looming skills shortage in Australia and it’s something we should take very seriously. There’s a gap across a range of industries, and the figures are frightening when it comes to the gap some industries will have in the coming years.

A large proportion of Year 11 and 12 students are making career decisions based on going to university. There’s certainly a huge benefit to be derived from a university education and we have a fantastic local institution in Charles Sturt University. However, there are options.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) is an option that I believe we should consider more closely. With jobs in so many areas needing skills (and quickly), it’s not surprising that Central West headquartered apprenticeships, training, and community services organisation, VERTO, has identified that 9 out of the top 10 jobs with shortages require a VET qualification.

In my opinion, the opportunity is there to help our local school leavers better examine the options that might just give them the skills to plug the shortage. There needs to be an opportunity for school leavers to examine all options equally, both university and VET qualifications. Making sure VET is a viable option to consider can go a long way to helping our local economy.

Local business has a role

I’ve often heard it said that it’s difficult to find the right employees, and I can agree that finding someone who fits the role, culture, and skill set can be a challenge. But you know what? For every role I’ve ever offered, I’ve found the right people locally, without having to go outside our region.

Focusing specifically on our youth, I think there’s a role for all of us as business owners in regional Australia. We have to provide opportunities for school leavers to join our organisations, to find career paths locally. We’ve focused on helping school leavers into our technical and sales programs, and it’s something that’s worked tremendously well for our team.

There is a future

If you look specifically at the Central West, there are some exciting developments that will help us provide bigger and better opportunities.

There’s the Inland Rail project that is benefitting those in the Parkes region. In Orange, we’re seeing the shoots beginning to sprout in a Healthcare boom. In Bathurst, the focus on creating a technology hub is starting to show signs of success.

Add in the crushing cost of living in our major cities, and regions like the Central West are looking more and more attractive. All of these programs are most certainly welcome. Anything that can help drive job growth is going to provide a benefit to the economy and our younger generation, if we make it a focus in the business community, we can be a part of it. In the end, it’s up to all of us in the Central West to provide the right opportunities for our community to continue to grow and prosper.


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