MANY of the region's employers are crying out for skilled workers, and Warrnambool City Council is working on an innovative long-term solution to fill the jobs gap.
With the support of Wannon MP Dan Tehan, the council is set to launch an application to secure a Federal Government designated area migration agreement (DAMA).
City growth director Andrew Paton said the region's residents weren't filling job vacancies, so DAMA was one solution. Councillors will vote on submitting the application at Monday's council meeting and then if it is accepted by the Federal Government, it will run over three years from 2019-21.
Under the DAMA framework, employers in areas experiencing skills and labour shortages can sponsor skilled and semi-skilled overseas workers.
DAMAs are designed to ensure employers recruit Australians as a first priority and prioritise initiatives and strategies to facilitate the recruitment and retention of Australian workers. Warrnambool would be the second region to have a DAMA, with the first currently in place to cover the Northern Territory.
As previously reported in The Standard, there is a need to fill 1000 specific jobs, which the region's employers are struggling to fill.
It comes as the Victorian Skills Commissioner Neil Coulson launched the Great South Coast regional skills demand profile in Portland this week, highlighting the need for more than 3000 more workers in the industries across the region by 2021.
Many employers are now looking to employ migrants, with a number of south-west businesses already engaged with overseas workers, especially in the agricultural and meat industry.
Mr Paton said there was three reasons why the council would run DAMA in the region, as the jobs available were not being filled by local residents.
"We have a flatline in population growth," he said. "In Warrnambool it is one per cent, and across the region it is three per cent. We have really low unemployment, around 2.9 per cent and we have an aging population. Census data shows between 2006 and 2016 there was 1000 less people of working age in the region. We have individuals screaming out for skilled workers. The government is now giving us an opportunity to address it."
He said attracting growth was complex and DAMA would help to address long-standing skills shortages.
"The agreement is specific to our region," he said.
"DAMA will list jobs that are short in our region. The three-year program offers pathways to permanent residency."
The council will run the project across Great South Coast municipalities. Workers can come from across the globe, and must have specific skills to fill the shortages.
There will be support and settlement services for the new arrivals, which will be capped at 300.
Chief executive officer Bruce Anson said it was a brilliant initiative, that would future proof the region's industries for years to come.
"This is the biggest opportunity to fix skills and labour shortages for 20 years," he said.