Increase Employment in South Australian Wine Regions by being World Leading

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With South Australia producing approximately half of Australia’s total wine output each year, yet only utilising 1.6% of the state’s total employment, broader economic opportunities are waiting to be reaped through workforce development.

The South Australian Government suggests there is a shortage of skilled workers in the wine regions.

Work opportunities in the wine industry are affected by many factors, including distribution of population and competing industries.  As part of the State Strategic Plan, by 2020 South Australia will be recognised as the world’s leading food and wine tourism destination.

One of the objectives of the plan is to develop career paths in food and wine tourism to keep talent within South Australia.

Opportunities in key SA wine regions

The Adelaide Hills, Kangaroo Island and Fleurieu Peninsula (including McLaren Vale) are three regions making headway in terms of economic contribution, employment opportunities and workforce development.

Economic Contribution

According to the Adelaide Hills Employment and Workforce Development Network (AHEWDN), food production is a significant contributor to the local economy – including fresh and processed vegetables, yoghurt, pre-prepared meals, condiments, small goods and gourmet meats, cheese, honey, preserves and other fruit based products, confectionery, biscuits and olive oil.  Beverage production is also significant – including cordials, cider, boutique beers and wines.

The region is building on its strengths in viticulture, food production and tourism to achieve its goal of ‘a strong, diverse and sustainable economy’.

For Kangaroo Island, tourism is the main growth industry.  Growth is also occurring in service industries such as retail, hospitality, tourism, community services and business and property services.  Visitors spend around $120 million per annum, generating 20% of direct employment on the Island (around 471 full time equivalent jobs).

For McLaren Vale, on the Fleurieu Peninsula, food and wine industries are considered to be priorities for future growth.  Over 65% of the red wines produced in the region are selling over $15 a bottle, with almost 40% selling between $20 and $30 – with Shiraz the main grape of the region (54.4%).  The region produces over 50% of McLaren Vale’s grape crush or 2.4% of South Australia’s vintage.

Employment & Workforce Development

In May 2015, the unemployment rate in the Adelaide Hills was 5.0%. Kangaroo Island was below the state average too – with a lower than average unemployment rate of 4%.

Business growth and workforce development is of key focus in these regions. A plan by Regional Development Australia outlined key metrics to improve business and workforce skills in the Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu and Kangaroo Island from 2014 – 2017.

This includes:

  • The development of the future workforce through school, VET and university sectors
  • Up-skilling of the current workforce at the enterprise and industry level
  • The attraction of suitably skilled people to the region for work
  • Implementation of succession planning
  • Development of management and entrepreneurial skills

And then there’s key initiatives in local regions such as the Adelaide Hills Youth Strategy, which connects work opportunities with young people in the region.  Its work includes laying the groundwork so that the region caters for the changing shape of youth employment.

The Kangaroo Island Tourism Employment Plan has been developed in partnership with industry and recognises that labour and skills challenges are part of the larger challenge of economic transformation of the Island.

The plan aims to support a leadership model comprising major employers, industry and business groups and relevant government agencies to provide a demand side appreciation of current and future skills needs for the region and promote programs to address these.  One of the main strategies includes promoting career development services for the community through Career Development Centres.

A region going from strength to strength

According to the South Australian Centre of Economic Studies, on average the unemployment rate across the these regions was lower than the state unemployment rate between 2003 and 2011, the labour force participation rate followed an increasing trend over seven years and was slightly higher than the South Australian participation rate.

Agriculture (including horticulture, viticulture and animal husbandry) and its enhanced value chain, which includes the wine industry (both Adelaide Hills and Langhorne Creek), gourmet foods and tourism and hospitality, will continue to be a major employer and wealth generator.

There’s great potential for economic growth in South Australia’s wine regions by utilising workforce development strategies – from organisational development and strategic planning, through to community and regional development.

If you would like to know more about workforce development strategies for your industry sector or region, please contact Wendy Perry at

July 2015

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