South-west employees are increasingly turning their backs on long-term, established careers and seeking to change jobs as a result of COVID-19.
Warrnambool Skills and Jobs Centre director Susan Pettigrew said staff were seeing an increasing number of adults across various professions looking for new opportunities.
"I think COVID-19 has really changed people," Ms Pettigrew said. "They've had a chance to do a bit of reflection on their current job and think, 'is now a good time to reskill or relocate or change my career?'
"They've had a chance to sit back and reflect on what they want to do."
As a result, the centre's pathways assistants are seeing community members seeking employment and "looking for a whole new skill set and whole different range of jobs".
The centre, located and associated with South West TAFE, is an independent service funded by the Department of Education and Training. It provides free study and career advice for all community members, regardless of age, income, qualifications or experience. It also works with industry to fill vacancies and help with their employment needs.
"They certainly aren't unskilled," she said. "They're definitely moving into that space of either career change or upskilling or changing direction," she said.
"A lot of them are coming in looking for a whole different skill set and a whole different range of jobs. It's really, really interesting at the moment."
She said there was an "enormous amount" of south-west job vacancies and shortages in areas including hospitality, health, aged care, nursing and the carers industry, community services and early childhood.
"Our jobs board is overflowing on the website and in the local paper. You're probably seeing two to three pages of jobs ads coming through from administration jobs right through to professional jobs across this region," Ms Pettigrew said.
"That's a lot of trades that are going to be needed in this region in the next five or six years so there's a really big push for the trade sector and apprenticeships and there's a lot of incentives in that space as well."
She said hospitality workers who'd lost hours or their jobs as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns and ongoing uncertainty were also reassessing their employment prospects.
"I think people have been put off and now they've decided they don't want to go back to that work any more. They may have been in casual employment and decided they want something more (permanent)."
"I really feel for the hospitality and tourism industry," Ms Pettigrew said. "It will bounce back, absolutely. But a young person needs to have confidence in that and I think that's what's lacking at the moment."
In 2018, the centre recorded 4150 visits and in 2019 there were almost 5300 people through its doors. In 2020 the centre was forced to close due to the pandemic and offered an online service. It recorded almost 3000 visits and so far this year, from January to June, there were almost 1550 visits.
Ms Pettigrew said there was a lull in inquiries in 2020 following the introduction of government support payments JobKeeper and JobSeeker with clients thinking or hoping the pandemic was going to be short-lived.
"After a while they realised this was going to be a long haul and started to consider the options of re-skilling, up-skilling and perhaps a career change."
She said staff could offer the latest advice about free or subsidised TAFE courses and had networks across Victoria's other Skills and Jobs Centres for those looking to relocate.
New funding from Jobs Victoria has enabled the centre to hire another pathways assistant and she said there was plenty of support available.
"We're looking at people's skill sets, where they want to head. We can provide advice about where the jobs of the future are going to be and what that looks like going forward. There's a real need for that. We work across Colac, Portland and Hamilton and everything in between."
"There is so much available now from this current (Victorian) government, in regards to getting people of up-skilled and re skilled than ever before. There's lots of funding out there.
"With all the free TAFE courses and courses with reduced fees, along with incentives for employers to put on staff and apprentices there has never been a better time to skill-up and get ready to meet workforce demands," she said.
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