- Opinion Piece -

Time for a Healthy Dose to Boost Jobs

Sam Birrell 2019

The Regional Australia Institute has identified that there are 54,000 job vacancies across regional Australia.
A significant number of those are professional or skilled jobs.
This has led to a campaign by the institute, called “move to more”, with the intent to move more skilled workers from metropolitan areas to regional Australia.
This campaign sits along the numerous campaigns regions themselves are mounting, from the Riverina’s “country change” to the “evocities” joint effort promoting a group of NSW regions.
Greater Shepparton’s own campaign, “Great Things Happen Here” highlights the city as a desirable place for young, skilled people to move to.
This is all good stuff, but the numbers are so significant and the immediate need so acute in the business community that the only real solution is a significant skilled migration program.
Even if all 54,000 jobs were filled by tree changers from our cities, that leave many vacant jobs in metro areas, where the economy is rebounding faster from the COVID-19 pandemic than many thought possible.
I appeared before a Federal Government joint standing committee last week and put forward the suggestion for a targeted global recruitment campaign for skilled people to move to regional areas.
The need is right now, and it presents an opportunity.
There are many parts of the world that are pretty unappealing places to be at the moment, and a move to Australia would be attractive.
Of course, we would need to deftly manage the quarantine system, and that evidently needs some improvement.
Goulburn Valley Health, and the health sector generally, is the most critical in terms of a skilled employment shortage.
GV Health has a projected requirement of 450 additional staff, in both clinical and non-clinical roles.
There are some initiatives in place to address this, one example being La Trobe University’s biomedicine degree articulating into the University of Melbourne postgraduate medical qualification based in Shepparton, but it will take some time for this to produce more regional doctors.
GV Health is faced with premium labour costs in the form of locum and temporary measures to fill positions – if permanent staff could be found and employed, these resources could go towards expanding services to our residents.
We will hear a bit of anti-immigration rhetoric from those who feel that we should have “Australian jobs for Australian workers”. But when you talk to businesses, you get the feeling that the economy is growing faster than the population in regions, and that there needs to be some intervention.
High youth unemployment and jobs being unfilled is a terrible dichotomy, and one that needs urgent attention from governments.
Roadblocks to employment and careers for young people need to be removed so that everyone can participate in the economy.
But this won’t happen overnight, and there is an opportunity to continue to grow with the help and talents of the best and brightest from around the world.

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Sam is the CEO of Committee for Greater Shepparton.