Industry leaders must ensure our region can fill jobs in the future.
Industry leaders must ensure our region can fill jobs in the future.

How jobs will play a critical role in our region's future

DESPITE political hoo-ha about job creation, statistics show we don't need more jobs.

We just need people to fill the ones we already have.

Statistics from Regional Australia Institute's Regional Jobs Vacancy Map show there are more than 30,000 vacant jobs in Queensland alone.

In Central Queensland, the highest number of advertisements are searching for clerical administration staff, automotive or engineering tradespeople, nurses and medical practitioners.

Regional Australia Institute CEO Kim Houghton said this pattern was mirrored in most regions across the country.

"The (CQ) region has a very similar pattern of vacancies to a lot of other regions. At the moment, people with those skills (medical, trade, engineering) can work pretty much everywhere across the country,” Dr Houghton said.

"While we've got a Federal Government and a Reserve Bank concerned about lowering interest rates and creating jobs, if you look at this picture there are lots of jobs in regional Australia.

"It is not so much a challenge of creating jobs, it is (creating) the perception that our regional communities are worthwhile places to live in.”

Dr Houghton noted the large number of clerical administration vacancies could be indicative of a shortage of all employees, not just highly-skilled employees.

Resource Industry Network general manager Adrienne Rourke said the shortage of skilled job-ready workers was an ongoing issue in our community. .

"There is a short term outlook,” she said. "We have a number of high-paying skilled jobs in the region and we need to attract people here and ideally we would like them to be living here.”

"The medium to long solution ... we need to look at our region and understand what the opportunities are going to be like Whitehaven, Galilee Basin operations, METS Ignited, the export.”

"I think we need a medium to long term plan.”

More people without jobs

The cyclical cycle of the resource industry means Mackay's unemployment rate is in constant flux.

In the best years, between September 2012 and March 2013, the region experienced an unemployment rate of just 2.9 per cent.

At the worst, the quarter beginning December 2015 unemployment rates reached 8.4 per cent

Today it sits somewhere in the middle. Data from the Small Area Labour Markets report shows 4.4 per cent of Mackay residents are unemployed.

Regional Australia Institute CEO Dr Kim Houghton said the Mackay economy was unusual, having both a shrinking labour force and rising unemployment.

"If we look at the unemployment trends for the Mackay region, what is underlying that is the labour force has been on a downward trend for the past two and a half years,” he said.

"You have these persistent vacancies both at the entry-level skills and the higher ones. But it is not translating to people coming in to fill those vacancies.

"And unemployment is up so your locals are not filling them either.”

He said this left the region in an "awkward” position without a labour force that matched our skills needs and without a training path into employment.

"I think there is something that is not quite right with the pathway into the work system,” Dr Houghton said.

"It is not that complicated - you connect employers with trainers in a long-term pipeline.

"(In Mackay) the education and training side has been slow to adapt.”

"The challenge is if there is a big spike for particular skills - that may mean you end up bring more people from outside to fill those jobs too.”