Mildura: An economic hub of inland Australia requiring a skilled workforce

The Mildura region has a vibrant economy that is continuing to grow and adapt to change.

While the traditional industries in the agriculture and horticulture sectors continue to contribute significantly to the regional economy (supplying 98% Australia’s dried fruit, 75% table grapes, 68% almonds and 20% of Australia’s wine grapes), other industry sectors are continuing to develop, such as manufacturing, property development, retail and construction.

All of which are strengthening and diversifying the region’s economy hence the need for a future workforce strategy.

The regional economy ($3 billion in GRP per year) continues to benefit from a strong increase in population, as many people discover the value and quality of life this dynamic region offers.

However a strong population doesn’t always mean requiring a skilled workforce – which is the case with Mildura.

A local economy in the spotlight

The Council’s vision is to make Mildura the most liveable, people-friendly community in Australia.  In the 2013-2017 Council Plan, economic development will be driven by four key goals:

  1. A diverse and progressive economy
  2. Investment attraction and job creation
  3. Connectivity in the global marketplace
  4. Accessible information, internet and telecommunications services

Part of the Council’s plan is a number of major projects, including the new Mildura Airport, Dockside Mildura Marina, the Riverfront Precinct Redevelopment, Mildura Arts Centre and the Transport Infrastructure Development.  These significant developments have had great flow-on effects for jobs in the region.

The Almond industry is growing rapidly and will generate 50% more production in ten years.  This will have a positive implications for the businesses that service the industry.  These significant developments have had great flow-on effects for jobs in the region with population expected to increase by an additional 3.7% by 2019.

“As a community, we need to ensure our infrastructure and services are of a standard that attracts people and makes them stay in our region long-term.  We need to make sure everything that makes a city an attractive lifestyle option is available here, including great access to education, health and social services,” noted Mildura Rural City Council Mayor, Glenn Milne.

Local workforce solutions

But while the figures are positive, the community saw the need to get the overall unemployment levels down and finding ways to get long-term unemployed people back into the workforce.

Back in 2010, Going Forward, a $150,000 project to address shortfalls in skills and workforce developments in the Mildura district, was designed to address the challenges of attracting and retaining skilled labour.

The strategy was a plan of action to:

  • Identify local career opportunities
  • Increase the supply of labour by helping people who have barriers to employment
  • Encourage the adoption of a range of flexible work practices to make employment in the region more attractive to families
  • Give industry a greater say in training
  • Support the development of a small business plan

The Member for Northern Victoria Region at the time, Candy Broad, said common challenges included skill shortages, a lack of young starters, difficulty in retaining skilled labour and a lack of development programs and resources.

“Broader issues also emerged about the relevance and availability of local training and the need to improve links between education, training and industry,” Ms Broad emphasised.

Next steps

Building upon previous initiatives, a new approach to employment and entrepreneurship is now needed across the Mallee region.  With major projects announced a future workforce strategy to 2020 would focus priorities on Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (11% of jobs); Health Care and Social Assistance; Education; and Tourism.  This could be developed via the Regional Skills and Training package alongside a recent Victorian Government announcement by Premier Daniel Andrews – Putting Government Back to Work for the Mallee Region.

The new Mallee Region, which encompasses Shire of Buloke, Shire of Gannawarra, Rural City of Mildura and Rural City of Swan Hill, will have its own Regional Partnership, ensuring government decisions and investments reflect the priorities of the families, workers and businesses in Mallee.

Workforce development strategies can be used to understand job skills needs and match education and training programs, as well as support current employees with ongoing training and development.  Leadership in local regional issues, from organisation’s such as Mildura Development Corporation, is key and if you would like to know more about workforce planning and development strategies for your industry or region, please contact Wendy Perry via wendy@workforceblueprint.com.au.

See http://www.economicprofile.com.au/mildura/economy/employment for up to date information on the region.

September 2015

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