Driving Darwin’s economic growth through workforce attraction and retention

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A 20-year blueprint to develop Northern Australia as an ‘economic powerhouse’ is set to transform Darwin.  $600 million will be dedicated to roads, in addition to the $100 million beef roads fund, and $200 million will go to water infrastructure.  There will also be a $5 billion concessional loans facility.

The measures in the white paper include:

  • Positioning the North as a leader in tropical health
  • Improving northern cattle supply chains
  • Northern Australia infrastructure projects pipeline and
  • Northern Australia insurance premium taskforce measures.

With all of the change that comes with developing the region, there will be specific workforce needs.  The previous Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb believed the Australian tourism industry will reap the rewards.

“Tourism and hospitality can be our fastest growing sector in coming decades – particularly in the Great North – but only if we have the right visa settings, attracting more investment and providing better access to skilled labour,” Minister Robb said.

And with a $75 million co-operative research centre also announced by the Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister Warren Truss, there’s also a focus on agriculture and food specific to the region.

“That means that Northern Australia is uniquely placed, and the only developed country in the tropics, to be a global leader in areas like agricultural research and tropical agriculture, but also tropical medicine, education, tropical sciences and the like,” added Mr Truss.

Developing Darwin’s workforce

Last year, the Northern Territory had the lowest unemployment rate (4.2%) in the country, with job opportunities going beyond the construction and resources sectors.

Employment Market Analyst at Randstad, Steve Shepherd, ­believes public services, hospitality, retail, and mining are popular careers in Darwin and the NT.

Darwin is the hub for a large number of industries, including mining, offshore oil and gas production, pastoralism, tourism and horticulture.

“With such a mix of sectors craving a mix of job roles, such as chefs, sales reps, nurses and retail managers, the state will continue to have a strong labour force,” Shepherd said.

The challenge, Mr Shepherd thinks, is recruiting skilled workers from a small pool of unemployed.

“Businesses may have to look to other states to find the workers required to continue its growth, especially as it gears up to benefit from trade with Asia.”

But there are programs and centres dedicated to better prepare Territorians.  Site Skills Training, for example, delivers a range of industrial and construction skills through courses.  They execute the Government’s BuildSkills program, which provides funding to existing workers looking to up-skill or re-skill their workforce by addressing gap areas.

Interestingly, there are more younger workers than older, in the local workforce with youth (15-24 years) representing 14.1%, while people 65 and over only account for 2.5%.

Darwin, and the Northern Territory, is going through a major transformation.  Workforce planning and development can help businesses align to the changes that are being implemented.

Read more about the work being implemented in Northern Australia.

If you would like to understand how workforce development strategies can support planning for growth please contact Wendy Perry at wendy@wb.switchstartscale.com.au.

December 2016


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