Skills shortages identified during a turbulent two years in the Riverina

Skills shortages identified during a turbulent two years in the Riverina

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Member for Riverina Mr Michael McCormack, Charles Sturt Director of External Engagement in Wagga Wagga and Albury-Wodonga Ms Samantha Beresford and RDA Riverina Chair Ms Dianna Somerville. Photo: CSU

Member for Riverina Mr Michael McCormack, Charles Sturt Director of External Engagement in Wagga Wagga and Albury-Wodonga Ms Samantha Beresford and RDA Riverina Chair Ms Dianna Somerville. Photo: CSU

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The results of the Riverina Skills Study were revealed at Charles Sturt in Wagga Wagga

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The results of the Riverina Skills Study were revealed at Charles Sturt in Wagga Wagga on Tuesday 12 October, with special guests in attendance, and will show the extent of the skills shortage in the region.

The study was conducted by Regional Development Australia (RDA) Riverina and was partially funded by Charles Sturt University's AgriPark Seed Fund.

The study involved more than 164 survey respondents, eight focus group participants and seven one-on-one interview participants.

RDA serves a population of 169,856 in towns including Wagga Wagga, Griffith, Cootamundra, Lockhart, Coolamon, Narrandera, Junee, Temora, Leeton, Hay and the Snowy Valleys.

The skills study aimed to understand which skills are in short supply, which future skills will be needed, and which collaborations are necessary to deliver solutions to meet the projected growth of the region.

Sara Johnston, Melanie Renkin and Rachel Whiting from RDA Riverina read the report. Photo: CSU

Sara Johnston, Melanie Renkin and Rachel Whiting from RDA Riverina read the report. Photo: CSU

Charles Sturt Director of External Engagement in Wagga Wagga and Albury-Wodonga Ms Samantha Beresford said the University was proud to be involved in an initiative that delivers an important assessment for the region.

"The RDA has shown tremendous leadership in highlighting key issues and engaging industry and community in this important conversation," she said.

"As an anchor institute in the Riverina, it is important that the University has a deep understanding of how we can help address skills shortages and workforce development to ensure the prosperity and growth of this wonderful region."

CEO and Director of Regional Development for RDA Riverina Ms Rachel Whiting said the collaboration with the University provided a model to use with other regional universities.

"We are very excited to be able to deliver the work that was conducted over the last two years," she said.

"The support by Charles Sturt University demonstrates the importance of the research presented in the Riverina Skills Study."

The top five industries to report difficulties were accommodation and food services, agriculture, forestry and fishing, health care and social assistance, manufacturing, and professional, scientific and technical services, according to 78 per cent of respondents.

An average of 48 per cent of vacancies in the past 12 months were unable to be filled with hospitality workers, health professionals, farm, forestry and garden workers, engineering ICT and science technicians and design, engineering, science and transport professionals cited as being difficult to find.

Business owners believed the main reasons positions remained vacant was due to a lack of qualified or experienced candidates or candidates unwilling to live and work in regional areas.

Member for Riverina, Michael McCormack. Photo: CSU

Member for Riverina, Michael McCormack. Photo: CSU

Almost 80 per cent of respondents felt that soft skills, including communication, teamwork, people skills, time management and problem solving, were important when hiring new staff.

Participants felt a focus in the region needed to be placed on improved youth retention, education, training and upskilling, addressing the gender segregation of the workforce and utilising the skilled migrant workforce.

Representatives from Charles Sturt University, RDA Riverina, local and federal government and external stakeholders attended the report launch at the University. Photo: CSU

Representatives from Charles Sturt University, RDA Riverina, local and federal government and external stakeholders attended the report launch at the University. Photo: CSU

Managing Director of Proway Livestock Equipment Mr Paul Gianniotis was an industry participant in the study.

He said the value of the report is that it collects factual data from industries that indicates the challenges being faced by regional businesses in the Riverina.

"While the results of the report will be no surprise to those in industry, it clearly highlights where the issues are being experienced for a considerable time now and our proposals to resolve them," he said.

Mr Gianniotis said he hopes private and public sectors use the findings of this study to enhance previous initiatives and implement new ones to address the skills shortage in the long term.

"The most challenging aspect of this exercise will be to act on the recommendations provided within the report," he said.

"This report goes a long way towards making these next steps in this journey."

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