Retaining workers on an island

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In our previous blog, we spoke about the current status of Hamilton Island’s economic and workforce development, with some key issues raised around staff retention.  A program which is being trialled on the island in conjunction with the Salvation Army has proven to be successful.

By connecting young people with a structured training program, The Oasis Program has begun to solve the problem of high staff turnover on the island and upskill a disengaged, low-skill workforce across Australia.

In this blog we will outline the suitability to implement similar programs on other islands.

Kangaroo Island, SA

Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island and is located off the coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula, about 110 km south-west of Adelaide.

With a small population of approximately 5,000 residing on the island, industries are still apparent, but relatively localised.  Tourism and Agriculture are leading industries.

There is a relatively low-skill workforce, with only a small proportion of people on the island holding a bachelors degree or higher.  31.5% of people at the time of census were engaged in some form of unpaid / voluntary work.

Kangaroo Island has been flagged as a potential ‘hot spot’ for tourism employment, with the SA state government funding development of the workforce in this area.

Although retention rates have not been highlighted as a pivotal issue for the area, a low population rate alongside a highly engaged workforce (63.4% of KI residents are in the workforce) suggests a program similar to Hamilton Island’s Oasis Program may not be suitable.

However, workforce planning that incorporates growth strategies for the future, cross skilling across job roles and stimulation of tourism activity on the island would be better suited.

Lord Howe Island, NSW

Situated off the coast of NSW between Australia and New Zealand, Lord Howe’s spectacular scenery has made it home to a dominant tourism industry.

With an even smaller population than Kangaroo Island (approximately 350 at date of census, 2011) there have been some similar issues to Hamilton Island around staffing that have emerged, as well as a lack of opportunities for the local population.

During a visit to the island via invitation in 2012, Service Skills Australia identified a key issue centred around a lack of education opportunities for younger people.

With a small population and the island only offering schooling education up to grade 7, families are forced to make decisions about either moving away, or sending children to boarding school.

Through this, there is a lack of a clear career pathway from a young age due to the island’s remoteness and lack of educational infrastructure.

The Salvation Army Oasis Program which has been implemented on Hamilton Island, would be suitable for an area like Lord Howe Island, which experiences high hospitality turnover rates, a need for local upskilling opportunities and easily accessible education programs.

Lady Elliot Island, QLD

Lady Elliot Island is the southernmost coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef, QLD.  The island lies 85km north-east of Bundaberg and covers an area of approximately 110 acres.

The island is home to an air strip and small eco resort, with a miniscule workforce.  Workforce and economic development for the island is difficult due to its strict environmental classifications.

Lady Elliot Island is located within the ‘Green Zone’ of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which is the highest possible classification designated by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Marine National Park Green Zones protect the biodiversity within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park by protecting important breeding and nursery areas such as seagrass beds, mangrove communities, deepwater shoals and reefs.

Although tourists frequent the island as a landing point for snorkelling, diving and nature-watching, the servicing workforce is very small.  An education and skills program like the one implemented on Hamilton Island would not be suitable for an area with such a small industry and workforce.

Despite the similarities in geographical locations and remoteness as outlined above, Workforce BluePrint recognise that every district, island, town and region have differing needs, challenges and desired outcomes.  That is why we take an individualised and thorough case-by-case approach to workforce planning.  If you would like a tailored solution, contact Wendy Perry, Head Workforce Planner at wendy@wb.switchstartscale.com.au.

April, 2015.

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