WIMMERA industry leaders have proposed solutions regarding the attraction, training and retention of the region's workforce.
The Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Partnership hosted a workshop in Horsham on Wednesday where employers and employees discussed solutions to fix the region's growing job gap.
The partnership previously identified creating a "high performing, valued and empowered workforce" as one of its key focuses.
Issues the partnership identified included a lack of suitable applicants to skilled jobs; an aging workforce; lack of higher education options in the region; and challenges for small business growth.
Workshop attendees discussed issues in small groups and presented solutions to the floor.
These solutions included creating electronic exit surveys; using tourism marketing to make the region appealing to employees; ensuring the Wimmera's schools were aware of job opportunities available in the region; addressing the lack of post-secondary opportunities available in the region; and making the region more appealing through future planning of regional cities.
Partnership chairman David Jochinke said the workshop aimed to find tangible solutions to the region's workforce problems.
"The region is primed to work together on a co-ordinated approach to develop locally appropriate strategies to enable organisations, businesses and agencies to 'fill and skill' the workforce shortages across Wimmera Southern Mallee," he said.
Regional Development Minister Jaclyn Symes; Jobs, Innovation and Trade Minister Martin Pakula; and Regional Victoria Parliamentary Secretary Danielle Green also attended the workshop.
Ms Symes said workforce attraction, retention and training had been identified as one of the most pressing issues for the Wimmera Southern Mallee.
"The common thread that comes through is worker attraction, difficulties in gaining qualified staff and children not knowing what jobs are available as well," she said.
"We talk about how low the regional unemployment rate is ... but it's actually a problem when there are pockets of areas where there are job vacancies - we want to know why that is the case."
Ms Symes said she was pleased with the ideas expressed at the workshop.
"There is no easy solution, but I think when you have communities and employers who are willing to tackle this huge issue, that's when we'll see outcomes. It's been great to explore some of those issues and bring them back to the government," she said.
"A lot of country communities are guilty of talking themselves down and I think that as a community we can do better at talking ourselves up, making sure people in our community are positive within themselves and want to live in this region."
Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness said he wanted to see a greater focus on making the Wimmera an attractive place to live.
"I'm interested in looking at how we can create opportunities for people who visit our region and want to live here. The other side of it is how do our employers create opportunities for those people?" he said.
"We discussed how to take a tourism point of view and attract people to the region. People might visit only for a short time, but how do we encourage them to stay here using the tools of tourism marketing.
"We need to have the right facilities in the region to make it appealing. There also needs to be opportunities for people to have career progression when they move here so they feel like they can get ahead."
Horsham Rural City Council chief executive Sunil Bhalla said many sectors were facing the same challenges with attracting and retaining staff.
"It's about how we can work together as a region to address that issue," he said.
"We have a lot of opportunities in the region but it's about finding the right people for those jobs and how we can make the region more attractive to them. Health, education, better connectivity - those are all things that people look for when they move somewhere."
He said the council struggled to find staff to fill vacancies.
"We often have to go outside the council area to find people. With administration roles it's easy to get people locally, but a lot of professional jobs such as engineers and project managers have to be sourced elsewhere. We have lost two of our engineers in the last few months because their partners couldn't find jobs," he said.
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