TACKLING manufacturing skills shortages means focusing on more than jobs, industry figures say.
They want to entice highly skilled workers to the Loddon Mallee region in the wake of 2018 research that found Bendigo businesses needed more than 80 welders alone to meet demand.
Manufacturers met on Tuesday to help hatch a plan to draw more people into local jobs, enlisting the City of Greater Bendigo among other stakeholders.
Overcoming prospective employees’ misplaced ideas about life in regional areas needed to be a priority, Bendigo Manufacturing Group chair Mark Brennan said.
He worked with Thales and said it was easy to get prospective employees excited about programs like engineering Hawkei military vehicles, but not always simple convincing them to move.
“It’s their considerations of their husband, wife or partner’s needs. They might have a really good job in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane and have kids at really good schools,” he said.
“And worst of all for me is when they say they’ve never considered moving to a country town and I’m saying ‘Bendigo is not a country town, it’s a regional city and it has everything a city has to offer’.”
The final roadmap, which would be developed into different campaigns and initiatives this year, would likely include messages about the benefits of life in Bendigo.
“We’ve been successful in marketing our arts precinct and tourism, but we want to attract people to come and work and the message will be that there are plenty of jobs and opportunities,” Mr Brennan said.
The plan could also include ideas to encourage more young people to pursue careers in manufacturing, he said.
Worker shortages were not just a problem in Bendigo, Tezamen non-executive director Herbert Hermens said.
“They are struggling with the same problems in America and the United Kingdom,” he said.
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Perceptions that manufacturing and engineering were old and “in a sense, dying” were unfounded, Dr Hermens said
“The reality is we are growing. The number of people employed may be a little less but we are becoming more productive and our exports as a percentage of GDP are growing,” he said.
“So we are an industry on the cusp of growth. We need to start filling it with people.”
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