Untapped labour to support Kangaroo Island’s growth

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KIAround 4,500 people live on Kangaroo Island (KI) in South Australia.  Nearly half (40%) of the island live in one town, Kingscote.  KI’s greatest asset is its unspoiled nature, wildlife, natural produce – wines/gin, seafood, cheese, foods, and ‘true’ Australian experience.

Tourism generates 20% of the island’s employment, according to KI’s Tourism Employment Plan.

$170 million + in new projects

Over the next five years, an expected $170 million will be invested into the region.  This will result in new employment opportunities, more visitors, population expansion, and economic growth.  At least 300 jobs will be introduced.

Some of the island’s major projects include:

  • Kangaroo Island Airport upgrade
  • Penneshaw Community Wastewater Management Scheme
  • Golf course development
  • American River Resort
  • Forestry Wilderness Walking trail
  • Undersea Cable and/or alternative green energy provision
  • Bickford’s Kingscote Wharf Project
  • Aurora Ozone Hotel Expansion

With tourism being a key driver of KI’s growth, the island qualifies for Tourism Employment Plans (TEP) tools and strategies.

One of the Government’s eight tourism ‘hot spots’ in Australia, a TEP was developed for KI.  The plan focuses on local labour to increase demand for tourism services.  On-island training for locals, supporting flexible employment, and driving innovation are three major components.

Accessing new labour segments

There are untapped labour groups that could help the island meet growing demands.  These include youth (unemployment stands at 8.4%), mature-aged workers, long-term unemployment and Indigenous Australians.

Part of a new project to attract mature aged workers launched late last year, Kangaroo Island is one of the five regions where The Mature Aged Business Syndicates will run.

The TAFESA program will help older workers through a framework for training and support – assisting them to continue along new employment and business paths.  The first stages of the initiative will create as many as 20 start-up businesses, involving up to 80 mature-aged people, each year.

The focused areas of training will include business operations and management, including law and risk, finance, marketing and information technology.

The skills challenge

KI faces a number of skill gaps, particularly within the $134 million tourism sector.  The nature of the season, the domination of small business, and ageing population all attribute to KI’s workforce issues.  More needs to be done to improving employability skills such as communication, self-management, and initiative.

Suggestions have been made that include removing barriers to leverage business support programmes, aiding business growth and experience development, as well as lifting service quality across the region.

Looking at the state as a whole, the Training and Skills Commission identified key areas and trends for the South Australian workforce.

Some of the feedback included:

  • The increasing complexity of the VET Sector is proving difficult to understand and navigate
  • Formal training isn’t always the answer to the workforce development needs of industry
  • Enterprises highly value skills that increase employees internal mobility and capabilities
  • The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) and Training Packages are inconsistent and often misunderstood by many engaged in the VET system
  • Continual changes to the level of public subsidy for VET qualifications diminishes business planning capability
  • The capacity of industry to invest in skills development varies widely between sectors and sub-sectors.

Both local bodies and State Government are stepping forward to take advantage of KI’s vast tourism opportunities – building solutions to workforce gaps and encouraging small businesses to think ‘big’ with the Office of the Commissioner for Kangaroo Island taking the lead.

If you’d like to chat about workforce development strategies in your island community, please contact Wendy Perry via wendy@wb.switchstartscale.com.au.

January 2017

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