Regional Councils throughout Australia often face difficulty in sourcing skilled, local human resources. This is often exacerbated by the issue of an ageing workforce at regional Councils given that younger members of the workforce prefer to live in larger cities, and for the fact that private sector organisations within the region can often afford to pay higher salaries and thus “soak up” all the available talent.
However some regional Councils have implemented innovative programs in response to these issues. For example:
* The Central Coast Council in NSW has recently recruited 28 young workers as part of its Early Career Pathways Program. This is a 12-month program that provides uni students with an undergraduate program in areas such as engineering, social science and environmental sustainability. It provides the undergads with hands-on experience while they complete their studies. The Central Coast Council also runs an Apprentice and Trainee Program where it provides young people with employment and study in fields such as construction, water treatment and business administration. The council has recently recruited 13 young people into this program.
* A consortium in Central QLD consisting of the Bowen Basin Regional Roads and Transport Group, Isaac Regional Council, Central Highlands Regional Council and Banana Shire Council has launched a Regional Skills Development Program. This Program is available to second year civil engineering students who will be rotated across the three councils over three years during uni holidays. Along with on-the-job work experience, the undergads will also be provided with accommodation and support throughout the program.
Regional Councils throughout Australia who face similar issues should consider these types of programs. Importantly too, Councils in this position should apply good knowledge management principles so that they do not lose decades of wisdom and corporate knowledge as their ageing workforce retires. They too should be included as “tutors” as part of these programs to help share their knowledge.