Job numbers are down across Western NSW, according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
More than 3,000 jobs were lost across Western NSW in the last 12 months according to the ABS, with 836 of those jobs lost in the Far West and Orana region.
The number of job seekers also fell two per cent in that time, from 64 to 62 per cent.
The biggest losses were in the retail and hospitality sectors, according to JobLink Plus executive manager for contract and community partnerships Emily Roy.
“An immediate example is businesses like Big W closing doors, that’s looming on people’s mind in Broken Hill so we’re working on transitioning those staff into new employment and training,” Ms Roy said.
“The other thing we’ve seen is there’s the promise of work in terms of big projects like the pipeline, but that hasn’t eventuated in the jobs that are happening,” she said.
“The companies in charge of that have talked big numbers in terms of jobs, but we’ve had job seekers waiting to hear back since November for those jobs.
“In the meantime we’re training people and getting them work ready so when opportunities do come they’re ready to go.”
The state Labor party has blamed the falling employment rate on the government’s TAFE funding policy, which has seen less money go towards the TAFE system in recent years.
TAFE has a key role in employment through skills training, apprenticeships and re-training Daniel Mookhey, Labor Duty MLC for Barwon, said.
Ms Roy said that nationally the job rate has stayed the same, and in some instances increased, but rural and regional communities remain disadvantaged.
She said the biggest issue facing job seekers in remote communities is the lack of training available.
“Most job seekers we work with are looking to gain formal qualifications in areas they’ve had casual or short term work so they can find something more long term,” Ms Roy said.
“You can’t argue with TAFE teacher losses, the figures are there and we’ve faced situations where we try and get a course going and get told there just isn’t anyone to teach it,” she said.
“We could fill classrooms with people keen to retrain and upskills but cutting staff from TAFE means not only does that person lose their job, but all the people they would have trained then can’t receive that training.
“It’s very typical in regional NSW that there isn’t a ‘plan B’ trainer, there’s one person to deliver the course and if they’re gone the course doesn’t happen.
“I think this is an opportunity for state governments to respond, and to bring some of the resources on the coast out here.”
On Friday Kevin Humphries announced two new TAFE teachers would be assigned to the Far West, as part of the state government’s TAFE Teacher Recruitment Taskforce.
The Member for Barwon said the teachers are part of a wave of more than 100 teachers to be sent out to rural and regional areas over the next 12 months.
“These new teachers are a huge win for Broken Hill and will deliver education and training support to our local students to help them upskill or get a new job,” Mr Humphries said.
“This investment in TAFE teachers will open up new opportunities for students and improve access to the world class teaching and skills training TAFE is renowned for,” he said.
Mayor Darriea Turley said the lack of training and employment opportunities in remote areas like the Far West is one of the biggest drivers for young people leaving the region.
She said it’s crucial to restore TAFE funding to keep the region alive, instead of engaging in Band-Aid solutions.
“So many young people are moving away from our region because they struggle to find work and educational opportunities,” Mayor Turley said.
“TAFE is incredibly important to our community.”
However Ms Roy said there is hope, and people shouldn’t assume there are no jobs or training available in the Western region.
“There are incentives available, the last thing we want is people to think there’s nothing available and no solution,” she said.
“But I think we need to get a bit cleverer about making sure employers know there’s money to access at a state level and federally to help support more staff and training.
“Longer term we just want to put the call out to state and federal MPs to hear what people in small towns are saying, and keep listening.”