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The value in upskilling regional workers

How skills development strengthens organisations and the community

4 minute read
Cafe worker in front of shop

Regional areas are developing at a rapid rate, with new applications contributing to their growth.

New jobs and burgeoning careers have required an expansion of skills, contributing to projects in country areas to help them flourish.

As a result, upskilling creates self-sufficiency for regional areas, along with opportunities fostering the growth of their local communities.

Strong regional communities underpinned by a skilled workforce

Scotford Fennessy Recruitment General Manager Andrew Sanders said a strong skilled workforce enabled regional areas to be sustainable while strengthening its community.

“A regional workforce is essential for the viability of the community.” 

“You need to have appropriate amenities in that area, so a workforce that is appropriately skilled is clearly required,” he said.

Growing numbers and a variety of jobs have resulted in a need for a growth of skills to accommodate a change in work while also supporting community needs.

“There’s no doubt jobs of the future will require new skills,” Mr Sanders said.

“The upskilling component is trying to adapt to the new requirements, but for regional areas, it’s a bit more fundamental than that.

“You might have been a tradesperson around town, and now you might be the tradesperson who goes and maintains a solar farm or a wind farm.”

New work options on the horizon

According to Mr Sanders, new work opportunities have resulted in a complete change in jobs.

He said it was prevalent in Western Australia’s regions, with workers transitioning to new jobs to grow their careers, particularly in the resources sector.

“It has included light vehicle mechanics who have transitioned to heavy vehicle machinery,” Mr Sanders said.

“There’s also a big push on renewables.

“I’ve seen a few people who have upskilled and changed tack to go into trades and become electricians, for example.”

Diversity of training

As new jobs come to the fore, new skills have become more available through an expansion of education and training to accommodate new industries.

New resources have helped to facilitate training, such as digital technology, which has improved its ease of access.

“There’s no doubt we have a lot more accessibility because of technology,” Mr Sanders said.

“There are appropriate facilitators and trainers, and there’s a lot that can be done virtually these days.

“You don’t actually have to be there to do a lot of the things.”

However, in-person training remains a fundamental part of training.

“A lot requires hands-on, tactile-type learning,” Mr Sanders said.

“You need appropriate facilities and trainers who can deliver those training programs.”

However, a lack of human capital has limited the possibilities for training in regional communities, with travel becoming a necessity to complete traineeships.

Mr Sanders said this was especially the case in the regions, where training was limited.

“It’s not very practical to be coming into Perth every week to conduct your training,” Mr Sanders said.

“You need to have appropriate infrastructure within the regional centre to help to deliver some of these programs.”

Thriving communities key for successful training

To ensure a regional workforce can be skilled to accommodate new industries, an appealing community is vital for training facilities to be successful.

“You have to make the regional centres attractive places to reside,” Mr Sanders said.

“Look at a similar type of approach, where you can have some specialists who rove around particular regions and there is a locum-type arrangement.

“You can provide incentives for people to go and reside in the area too.

“Then suddenly, you can provide trainers and training facilities – all these things start to make sense if you have a core population.”

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Mr Sanders said for a regional community workforce to be successful, where new industries requiring new skills were prevalent, a multifaceted strategy was required.

“I wouldn’t say you can’t have immigration or a fly-in, fly-out workforce.

“You can have all of those strategies at play, as well as transitioning some of the existing residents and making those roles more attractive.

“Viable, thriving communities have those, and we need that.”

Successful investment in upskilling benefits every party

According to Mr Sanders, organisational upskilling not only expands the worker’s capabilities but also benefits the organisation itself.

He said aside from an immediate investment in those individuals, there has been greater retention.

“There’s also some buy in because the employee recognises they’re being developed and, therefore, have some psychological contract with the employer,” he said.

“They are more likely to stay with an organisation.”

According to Mr Sanders, workers’ dedication and increased skills improved the organisation's abilities, allowing them to offer new services in local regional areas.

“For example, if you have a store, a factory or a warehouse, and all of your employees can operate a forklift, then you’re going to have a greater ability to move staff around, provide variety and create more continuity within your workforce, as well as better productivity,” he said.

“Potentially, they can also expand what the organisation is able to do.

“Have a look at the value chain – where else can they be doing things they previously could not to provide additional services and increase the scope of works.”

Where to from here?

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