BENDIGO businesses are seeking to grow, but have reported difficulties finding skilled staff.
A shortage of skilled candidates was one of the key issues to emerge from a survey of the city's business community.
Almost 40 per cent of the respondents expected staff numbers at their business to swell within the next 12 months.
But 57 per cent of businesses identified barriers to taking on new employees.
'Difficulty finding skilled staff' was chief among their concerns, followed by the cost of wages, economic uncertainty, and cashflow constraints.
A shortage of skilled candidates also appeared among the top three barriers to business growth in Bendigo.
Be.Bendigo chief executive Dennis Bice said the organisation was trying to understand why there was a disconnect between those seeking to employ, and people in Bendigo seeking employment.
"We've got businesses out there that are looking to employ skilled workers, but we've also got a youth unemployment market that's relatively high," Mr Bice said.
The Bendigo region's youth unemployment rate is 18.3 per cent - more than seven per cent higher than the state's average.
Heathcote, Castlemaine, Boort and Wedderburn are included in the Bendigo region.
Mr Bice queried whether businesses were willing to give prospective employees opportunities to train and grow into roles.
"Is it that in some markets and in some positions there is not sufficient interest in terms of employees out there looking for roles?" he wondered.
He was aware of skills shortages in some industries including welding and hospitality.
"Chefs are one of the roles we're short of at the moment," Mr Bice said.
He said Be.Bendigo was talking with secondary schools about how to prepare school leavers who were seeking to enter the workforce, and seeking to work with TAFE about how to roll out relevant programs.
"A lot of the work we've been doing in recent times is just trying to understand what is actually happening within our business networks," Mr Bice said.
He said Be.Bendigo was trying to tailor its events and programs towards helping businesses overcome barriers to growth.
More than 40 per cent of the survey's 187 respondents were positive about the prospects for future investment in their business.
Three-quarters of participants had a medium or high degree of confidence in the Bendigo business environment in the coming financial year.
Respondents came from a range of sectors and varied in size, from sole traders to businesses with more than 200 employees.
Sixty-two per cent of the businesses had been operating for 10 years or more.
The participants identified government investment and assistance, improved education and training and encouraging people to 'buy local' as ideas that could support growth and development.
Networking opportunities and improved transport solutions were also high among their priorities.
Mr Bice said the state's announcement with the release of its budget that payroll tax would be reduced over the next three years in regional areas was the sort of thing that made a difference to small businesses.
The business benchmarking survey was developed in consultation with the Deakin Business School.
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