While COVID-19 has negatively impacted the job market in a number of ways, the forced lockdown has proven that your geographical location doesn’t have to be a barrier to your ability to work. With millions of workers across the globe transitioning to remote work, job seekers are suddenly presented with the opportunity to work for organisations that they could never have feasibly worked for before; a great example of this being regional council. With the number of regional job vacancies increasing and regional councils being open to employing candidates living outside of their designated region, there’s never been a better time to make a career move and challenge yourself.
A common perception about regional Australia is that it doesn’t have the same career opportunities as the city. However, this perception is starting to shift, with over 50,000 job vacancies posted in regional Australia in September, according to the Regional Australia Institute (RAI). This was an 11% increase on vacancies from the previous month and in August, Dubbo in NSW, saw job vacancies increase by 50% from the previous year. The South West of Western Australia had 32% more vacancies than this time last year and the Yorke Peninsula and Clare Valley in South Australia had 25% more vacancies.
According to chief economist for the RAI, Kim Houghton, some regions are actually seeing more opportunities posted now, than before the COVID-19 job slump. These regions usually revolve around industries that traditionally have been integral to Australia’s economic growth, like mining and agriculture and have remained strong throughout the pandemic.
Meanwhile, both the state and federal government have declared multiple initiatives that will further support job opportunities within regional areas. NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro announced the $100 million Regional Job Creation Fund last week (October 25) which will provide grants between $100,000 and $10 million to local businesses within regional NSW that are able to demonstrate that they are creating new jobs. While the federal government announced that an extra $1 billion of the federal budget will go towards local councils within regional areas to immediately upgrade bike paths, streetlights, footpaths, walking tracks, community halls and barbeque facilities.
For those looking for work or open to new experiences, these growing vacancies can create a great opportunity, especially for those working within the public sector. Traditionally, working within local councils and government would require employees to live locally, as like many organisations, the majority of employees would be required to commute to the office. However, COVID-19 has proved that many of us don’t need to be collocated with colleagues on-site. Since lockdown started in March, individuals, teams and entire workforces have been able to continue working and meeting targets while being entirely distributed. And while many organisation’s are starting to re-open their office doors, remote work has become a permanent fixture; some companies have even declared that their employees can continue working remotely well into next year. Many regional councils have taken the same stance, with any non-essential and professional roles (those in HR, Finance, Marketing) able to work remotely on a permanent or semi-permanent basis.
The great opportunity with remote work- especially when advertising a new role- is that you can lift any geographical restrictions. For a regional council that’s looking to fill multiple roles, taking in applications from all over the state or country can increase their talent pool; allowing them to access skilled and experienced candidates that they may not have been able to access otherwise. For a candidate, expanding your job search to include regional roles, provides the opportunity to not only gain new and unique experiences and knowledge but increase your chances in securing a role in a particularly competitive job market. For those who aren’t entirely sure if regional government work is for them, doing a contract role remotely is also a great opportunity to ‘try before you buy’ and sample a role without having to overhaul your life and move to a new location. And for those that enjoy the experience, they can join the hundreds of other Australians since the outbreak, who have chosen to migrate away from their inner-city suburbs in search of a ‘sea’ or ‘tree’ change.
According to a separate report by RIA, 65,000 people have moved from the capital cities to regional locations since the beginning of this year. Even before COVID-19, from 2011-2016 Sydney and Melbourne lost more residents to regions than they gained. Regional NSW drew the most people from the Sydney city with a total of 159, 328 residents having moved to regional towns between 2011 and 2016. Again, the number of people choosing to migrate to regional areas is a positive for local government as the more people moving to a town center can boost the local economy and increase demand for local jobs.
Work Life Balance: The public sector has traditionally held the banner for flexible working environments, offering things like contract work, job sharing and remote working options as well as significant annual, maternity, paternity, and long service leave.
Job Security: Local government has a long tradition of being a high-security and growth sector in Australia and as at the last census, the public sector work-force rose by 23% from 2006 to 2016. Also, considering the recent government initiatives aimed at regional Australia, the opportunities within local regional councils are expected to continue.
Job Variety: Local government offers the opportunity to work with a number of stakeholders daily and encourage collaboration across different departments, allowing you to challenge yourself and experience new job fields.
Learning & Development: Many councils offer a range of career support options like mentoring, study assistance and reward and recognition programs. They also provide lots of opportunities for cross-training and developing your skill set. Regional councils will also work on unique projects you wouldn’t get the chance to work on in city councils (agriculture projects for example).
Environmental Impact: Working remotely obviously means you don’t have to drive or commute to work, which helps to reduce your carbon footprint. Otherwise, for those that decide to move regionally, working for your local council means you can live locally and walk and cycle to work. Regional councils are also responsible for managing environmental initiatives and ‘green space’ initiatives in your community.
Make A Difference: Regional government focuses on serving the needs of their local community; working with firefighters, police officers, public works officers and many more that work with communities in vital ways every day. For example, many regional councils were integral in rebuilding their local communities earlier this year after they had been ravaged by bushfires and supported the affected residents, wildlife and local firefighters.
For those involved within the public sector and interested in exploring the opportunities available within regional government, feel free to reach out to our specialised consultants. They are more than happy to chat through the exciting roles they have available that will suit your needs and provide a new challenge.