Labour shortage search turns to skilled farmers

Mining labour shortage search turns to skilled farmers

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Jason Rainbow is a diesel fitter who has come from Western Australia to work at Cobar. Photo: PJL Group

Jason Rainbow is a diesel fitter who has come from Western Australia to work at Cobar. Photo: PJL Group

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Mines investigate availability of skilled farmers in labour crisis.

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As the drought interrupts usual on farm work, other rural industries such as mining are investigating the availability of skilled farmers to help fill a shortage in their own industry.

PJL Group - a company that supports the resources industry with labour hire - are on the hunt for people to work at mines across NSW, particularly Cobar, and are willing to up-skill drought affected farmers for the job.

Doug Thorpe, who is the company's operations manager at Cobar, said they were prepared to up-skill farmers to fill the positions with flexible working arrangements.

"If we can get farmers who already have great experience with machinery, then we will work in with them," Mr Thorpe said.

"We know farmers are doing it tough at the moment, so we want to be flexible so when we have the work on we want to be able to offer it to them and when they need to go back the farm we want to work in with them."

The company is looking for fitters, boiler makers and trade apprentices to work at Cobar.

Cobar Mayor Lilliane Brady echoed Mr Thorpe's sentiments saying there was chronic labour shortage in regional towns with at least 30 advertisements for skilled workers especially for the mines in the local paper every week.

"We are in drought, but we are also in a labour drought," Ms Brady said.

"We are even looking for someone on the council as an engineer and the town always needs doctors and nurses."

When asked why people should come to Cobar, Ms Brady replied: "my husband was a doctor and we lived in Sydney but came out here. I told him I wasn't going to get out the car in this god forsaken place. But I've been here for 50 years...it's a wonderful place to live."

She said the introduction of the mining school had boosted the workforce to keep young people in town with already 10 students gaining employment with apprenticeships.

"Farmers can broaden their skills and use this opportunity to fill an income gap," she said.

It comes as NSW farmers are heading west to help their Western Australian counterparts for harvest because of their state's chronic worker shortage.

NSW Farmers' president James Jackson said at times like this when there was not a lot of money circulating through communities, if someone was bringing money into the regions then it was a good thing.

"While property's are unproductive, people have destocked or are not planting, any opportunity is a benefit to farmers and for those rural communities to keep businesses ticking over, which is critical," Mr Jackson said.

"Mining does compete with us for labour when we are having a good season, but at the moment, it's good for farmers to get a casual job to keep money going around," Mr Jackson said.

He added that the horticulture industry was also struggling to fill the job gap despite decreased crop yields.

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