Latest job vacancy data shows many vacancies in regions, but no workers to fill them

For this manufacturing company, attracting workers to their hometown proved so difficult that they opened a new warehouse in Sydney.

MASPRO manufactures parts for the mining industry in Australia and around the world.

Creating the pieces requires specialized skills that are scarce, especially in Condobolin, a town of about 3,500 people on the banks of the Lachlan River in western New South Wales.

The 90-year-old company decided this year to tackle its workforce shortage in an innovative way: it opened a new branch of the company in Smithfield, an industrial area in Sydney, 435 kilometers away.

“It’s a very competitive world and that’s what we need to do to think outside the box,” said Viola Lobo of MASPRO.

Viola Lobo says attracting workers to Condobolin is one of the company’s biggest challenges.(ABC Center-Ouest: Mollie Gorman)

The experience is not unique.

The latest data on federal government job openings, released this week, showed vacancies were still at record levels.

The country’s strongest growth was seen in Dubbo and western New South Wales, which includes the Condobolin region.

In November 2021, there were 143% more advertisements than before the pandemic, or about 1,000 more jobs than before.

Nationally, the strongest recruiting activity was observed in the regions, according to the Labor Market Information Portal report.

However, the majority of jobs on offer and subsequent recruitments are in cities, despite a growth in advertisements in regional areas overtaking the metropolitan market.

Small cylindrical silver hollow bolts stacked two heights on a table.
The engineering company supplies parts for use in hard rock mining in Australia and around the world.(ABC Center-Ouest: Mollie Gorman)

Back in Condobolin, Ms. Lobo said the company is targeting young people through an apprenticeship program.

But they were also looking to the international market to help fill in the gaps.

Almost 40 percent of the workforce comes from overseas countries like Canada, the Philippines and South Africa, including Ms Lobo, who moved to the small town of Melbourne, and before that from India.

“The transition for me from a city to a city in the countryside was very difficult at first,” she said.

Three men in high visibility work clothes stand on top of a mining processing plant
Recruiter Damien O’Donnell says many regional industries are booming and it is difficult to find staff to meet demand.(ABC Center-Ouest: Mollie Gorman)

Recruitment specialist Damien O’Donnell has observed the trends from his office in Orange, in the mid-west of the state.

In his experience, the demand for workers in regional industries such as agriculture, mining, health and tourism was skyrocketing.

Growth and demand for regional housing have also contributed, with job vacancies in some areas but no places to live.

“It’s hard to fill a position if the person isn’t already there,” he said.

But, said O’Donnell, vacancies across the country could be an opportunity for workers and businesses to better align their goals.

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