Migrant work boost
Migrants looking for work and businesses on the hunt for staff in the Wimmera are set to benefit from a major financial commitment from the State Government.
A Nhill-based community support organisation has won $480,000 in government backing for a project designed to connect Wimmera businesses with migrant employees.
The funding means Nhill Learning Centre, which has forged a reputation for its work with refugee migrants in the west Wimmera, can employ extra staff members for a $640,000 region-wide connective program.
Labor Member for Western Victoria Jaala Pulford said the government would provide support for the Wimmera CALD Diverse Workforce Industry Partnership Project. CALD stands for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse.
The partnership will involve 15 employment organisations and about 150 CALD employees.
The funding will go towards the Nhill centre employing a workforce development officer and a multi-lingual liaison officer to provide services to CALD employees and prospective employers across the Wimmera.
The project is designed to identify skill gaps and create learning plans for CALD employees while exploring future employment and education pathways.
It will have an aim to establish workforce diversity and provide businesses with labour to meet workforce requirements based on business growth.
Delighted Nhill Learning Centre executive officer Annette Creek said the announcement meant the centre would now have the necessary resources to increase program potential and capacity.
“Because of our work in this space people were looking to us for expertise and our resources were well and truly stretched,” she said.
“We knew from what everyone was saying to us, including employers, that we had to increase our reach. This now gives us the resourcing needed to establish a strong and worthwhile project.”
Ms Creek stressed the project was designed to meet needs across the Wimmera.
“To have this kind of funding available is terrific and rare. It is to provide links for migrants and employers across the region. We’ve taken this on because we have developed an expertise working with refugees and employers in our communities,” she said.
Nhill Learning Centre continues to play an integral role in supporting the needs of the community, especially migrant workers, many of them Karen refugees that have primarily settled in Nhill district.
In 2009 Nhill duck-production business Luv-a-duck responded to a labour shortage by encouraging Karen refugees from Burma, also known as Myanmar, to settle in Nhill.
With company and community support, the Karen community has grown to make up eight percent of the town’s population.
Ms Pulford said with the Wimmera’s ageing and decreasing population, many employers were experiencing labour and skill shortages.
She said attracting migrants to the region had proven to be a successful way to tackle the problem.
“We’re so proud to support the Wimmera in its successful and ongoing efforts to develop skills to meet the needs of local employers,” she said.
Hindmarsh Shire Council, Australian Wildflowers, West Wimmera Health Service, Sherwell Ahrens Manufacturing, Oscars Furniture Manufacturing, G and M. Kennedy and Toh Mae Pah are also supporting the project.
The west Wimmera has also been a major beneficiary of State Government funding through a Living Libraries Infrastructure Program.
The government has allocated $600,000 for West Wimmera Shire Council’s Edenhope Cultural and Community Hub, providing the $1.8-million to $2-million project with a financial green light to proceed.
The project involves the redevelopment of a Mechanics Institute hall in Elizabeth Street into a cultural centre that will provide library, tourism promotion and civic services. It will feature a community function space, meeting rooms and facilities for outreach and visiting service organisations.