Na­tional hon­our for farm work project

Wangaratta Chronicle - - Fox Run -

A RU­RAL City of Wan­garatta ini­tia­tive to help drough­trav­aged farm­ers has been recog­nised for its po­ten­tial to ben­e­fit the en­tire na­tion.

The Ru­ral Skills Con­nect pro­gram, which was the brain­child of coun­cil’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Doug Sharp, took out a 2008 Na­tional Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Award in Bris­bane on Wed­nes­day night.

It won the strate­gic na­tional cat­e­gory for a project that has the po­ten­tial to have an im­pact on a na­tional ba­sis.

The pro­gram in­creases op­por­tu­ni­ties for farm­ers to gain qual­i­fi­ca­tions to work off-farm, and fills skill short­ages in re­gional and ru­ral busi­ness such as weld­ing, mechanics and trans­port.

Mr Sharp said he was “like a cat on a hot tin roof” at the pre­sen­ta­tion night, with three other re­gional ar­eas al­ready tak­ing out awards be­fore the an­nounce­ment of the na­tional win­ner.

“I was quite blown away,” he said.

“We were up against all the ma­jor play­ers like Queens­land Tourism and Par­ra­matta City Coun­cil up near Syd­ney.

“So to win the big one was a re­ally good re­sult and I think recog­ni­tion of a re­ally good project.”

Mr Sharp said the idea for Ru­ral Skills Con­nect, which was only put for­ward in Septem­ber last year, was picked up by the State Gov­ern­ment and has been rolled out across Vic­to­ria.

He said there was cer­tainly po­ten­tial for the pro­gram to ben­e­fit other com­mu­ni­ties in Aus­tralia.

“It wouldn’t even need to be drought-type cir­cum­stances,” Mr Sharp said.

“Ru­ral skills could be matched up with skill short­ages any­where.”

Ru­ral Skills Con­nect to date has 150 par­tic­i­pants, 72 of which are en­rolled in for­mal train­ing across a range of 82 dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines.

In­dus­try is also re­port­ing a strength­en­ing of the labour pool and in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity.

FRESH START: Wayne Bat­ten is one of the suc­cess sto­ries of the Ru­ral Skills Con­nect pro­gram, which has this week been recog­nised at a na­tional level. As well as run­ning a cat­tle farm at Greta, Mr Bat­ten has also been work­ing with Cook’s Earth­mov­ing and is gain­ing ac­cred­i­ta­tion in the use of heavy ma­chin­ery.

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