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How the government plans to fill 40,000 regional jobs

By Tammy Laval

A CRITICAL step towards addressing Mackay’s skilled worker shortage will be taken today.

The highest level of government will acknowledge the need to fill more than 40,000 jobs across regional Australia right now and the need to plan for future growth as the workforce landscape changes.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack will today release the report showing the number of jobs in Mackay is projected to increase by 6450 by the year 2023.

The Regional Australia Institute report recognised a need to address the issue as a priority for regional areas.

It comes as the think-tank announces its Regions Rising roadshow to travel across the country and give people the opportunity to have a say about the future of regional Australia.

The report looked at the opportunities and challenges facing regional areas like Mackay and examined how regions could take advantage of the move away from primary and secondary industries to the service industries.

Lead researcher Dr. Kim Haughton said the report showed there was a bright future for regional jobs, but they needed to make some changes.

“We know there are more than 40,000 jobs to fill across regional Australia right now and that figure is set to grow as the workforce landscape changes,” he said.

“Regional Australia needs different skills, the types of jobs will change and the role of education will be more critical than ever before,” Dr Houghton said.

The report found Mackay had high job growth projections mainly due to the construction and mining industries.

But the RAI also expected Mackay to have an increase of 1504 jobs in agriculture, forestry and fishing industries by 2023.

Mr. Haughton said governments needed to ensure communities could grow.

“People with skills in the in-demand occupations will have plenty of options of where to work. It will be up to regional towns and cities to improve their liveability, so they can present as a great lifestyle option,” he said.

The Regions Rising roadshow will involve regional leaders, politicians, leading economists, academics, industry leaders, commentators and government representatives converging on the nation’s capital to address the biggest issues including regional jobs, population, health, and education.

RAI co-CEO Liz Ritchie said this event series would be the first of its kind where a bipartisan think-tank would focus on regional issues.

“Today is about lifting up regional Australia and bringing the issues to the forefront where regional leaders can engage directly with key decision-makers,” she said.

ENVIRONMENTAL crusader, side hustler, dream chaser – they’re just a few of the growing list of sole traders operating their businesses in the region.

Mackay’s sole traders cover a range of interests and niche markets. And thanks to word-of-mouth advertising, social networks and local markets, the region’s entrepreneurs are thriving.

According to the data provided by demographer Bernard Salt for the Our Future Mackay series, sole-trader businesses have experienced steady growth in the past year.

While Airlie Beach is the sole-trader hotspot of the region – most likely due to lifestyle telecommuters – Mackay comes in a very close second.

“This data shows Mackay has a real entrepreneurial grassroots element to the region,” Mr. Salt said.

Read more on Our Future Mackay here

Wendy Steindl, 43, of Walkerston, the owner of Healthy Clean and Green, has been up and running for just more than two years now.

Ms. Steindl said the impetus for starting her business was her desire to introduce convenient, affordable, eco-friendly products to the region.

“I chose to operate the business via an online shop and market stalls, which keeps my overheads low. I stock local products when I can, and almost all of my products are from Australian-owned companies,” she

Healthy Clean and Green has become a full-time venture.

“When I’m not at a market, I am out and about in the region educating the community about environmental issues.”

Ms. Steindl said the Pioneer Catchment and Landcare Group, which falls under the Mackay Regional Council, recently made a bulk purchase of reusable bamboo plates and cups to replace single-use plastic options.

“There are councils and towns around Australia that have gone single-use plastic-free and I would love Mackay Regional Council to take up this initiative,” she said.

Matt Turner, 34, of Walkerston started Motiv8 Customs a little more than a year ago.

His sole-trader business replaces classic and custom car carburetors with modern fuel injection systems.

“I’m a qualified diesel mechanic and have been for 17 years, and I’ve always had an interest in tinkering with cars. I did some training in the US and came back here and decided to start a side business,” he said.

Mr. Turner works full time in the mining industry and conducts his side hustle on his days off.

“Because I’m running my business from my shed and online, I’ve had fairly low overheads and restrictions,” he said.

Vicky Crichton, 49, of Sarina, owner of A Moment in Time, became a marriage celebrant two years ago and started her sole-trader business shortly after.

She officiates at weddings, marriage renewals, commitment and naming ceremonies and funerals.

Ms. Crichton said she spent many years working part-time in the mining industry – driving trucks and operating heavy machinery – while raising her kids. But once they had both graduated from high school and moved out it was her chance to do something for herself.

“My darling mum always said to me, if you can find a job you love it will never be like working, and she was right and it’s how I feel about being a celebrant. I don’t call it my job I call it my passion.”

Mrs. Crichton is not short of work either. She has 24 weddings booked this year and five already booked for 2020.

“I think it would be great if the council or Chamber of Commerce offered programs to assist sole-trader businesses with technology, or maybe a service guiding sole traders through their first year. It can be daunting trying to launch a business on your own,” she said.

Mackay Chamber of Commerce treasurer Stacey Cole said becoming a member of the Chamber offered many benefits to sole traders. The small cost of membership allowed sole traders to access training and professional development programs that would be cost-prohibitive to most businesses.

“Becoming a member also gives sole traders the chance to become part of a network with other businesses. I think there is a misconception the Chamber of Commerce is for professional or white-collared businesses, but it’s just not the case. It’s for anyone operating a business in the region,” Ms. Cole said.

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