WITH the focus remaining on attracting new industry to Stawell, Northern Grampians Shire Council is turning its attention to establishing a solid workforce base in the region.
Discussing economic activity within the shire, councillors were conscious of the need to continue working towards creating an environment that encourages investment and jobs.
Economic and Community Director, Jim Nolan, said being able to measure output against established indicators and monitoring of industry trends, assisted council to better understand the broader economic health of the community.
"Council's Economic Development and Planning Taskforce was formed to promote economic activity in the Northern Grampians Shire municipal area," Mr Nolan said.
"This is achieved by encouraging business development and investment within the shire.
"The economic growth of the shire remains the top priority of the Task Force, which is made up of representatives of the Business Services and Tourism team and the Planning and Development Services team.
"Documents which support this month's report, looks at population as a driver of economic growth and looks at trends, projected figures and activity within Northern Grampians Shire.
"The report provides information about the number of people within the workforce over the past three years, their ages and provides a breakdown of where the majority of people are working.
"Access to a skilled workforce, or the ability to develop a skilled workforce, is a significant factor in attracting new enterprises to establish within the shire."
Cr Tony Driscoll picked up on the point indicating the need to build such a skilled workforce in the shire.
"When you look at this report, one of the challenging background statistics to come out of this is that we need to be a little more creative about supplying a workforce in our shire.
"The Australian Bureau of Statistics has stated that if Australia proceeded with zero immigration, there would be 70 elderly people and children to every 100 people in the workforce by 2033.
"So the reality is, if we want to attract business to our shire and we need a workforce to satisfy that business, then maybe we need to be more creative in terms of having refugee settlement programs in place.
"It's a creative approach, but when an industry approaches us and asks if we have people or employees to service these jobs, we need to be able to say yes, we can supply them."
Cr Driscoll said a similar program had proven successful at Luv-A-Duck at Nhill. A program was introduced to settle Karen-Burmese refugees at Nhill. This refugee settlement of about 150 Karen refugees, was attracted by jobs being offered by the poultry producer.
"From that perspective, I just think this is one of the challenging issues in terms of background to our economic development partnerships report," Cr Driscoll said.
"We are still tracking along very well in other areas like building and planning approvals, so it's all very positive for the shire.
"It's just a curious thing in terms of thinking ahead, that maybe we need to be a little bit more creative about our workforce and something we might need to give consideration to."
Mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin, said with unemployment low in the shire, the council is in a good position to press forward.
"We are about ready to go to a business with a strategy for economic development," he said.
"Part of that strategy mentions a workforce strategy as well. Our unemployment is fairly low and I guess in terms of workforce, we do have residential plans around Stawell, so that will enable us to accommodate additional workforce if the jobs became available.
"We will be able to supply at least a block anyway and have the houses built. There could be a lot of people who could benefit from that."