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Isaac Job Fair a winner

The inaugural Isaac Job Fair organised by Feros Care on 28 April 2021 has proved a great success, with more than 100 regional jobseekers of all abilities taking the opportunity to connect with major national and local employers.

So much so, according to Feros Care Community Development Coordinator and fair organiser Di Chataway, that it could become a regular event.

Free bus transport for jobseekers

The fair was held at the Moranbah Community Centre and was strongly supported by Isaac Regional Council, which also sponsored the event. This allowed organisers to lay on free buses to bring jobseekers from other centres across the 59,000sq km council footprint in central Queensland – an area almost half the size of England.

Di said she was “extremely pleased” with how the fair turned out.

Strong turnout from employers

“On the day itself we had eight employer groups, three Disability Employment Services (DESs), three big coal mining companies, Queensland Council of Social Services and a mix of local employers including Coles, three contractors and Isaac Regional Council.”

Di said the ongoing resources boom means many local workers go straight from school or TAFE to high-wage jobs on the mines, while high street stores, cafes and other retail outlets in the region’s towns struggle to find staff and some businesses have even been forced to close as a result.

Workers in short supply…

“Employers are really keen to connect with local jobseekers because, while there’s lots of jobs available, it’s hard to attract outsiders because there’s no available housing,” she said. “The Isaac region has one of the tightest rental markets and some of the highest rental returns in Queensland.

“So it makes sense to use the talents and skills that are already here – and that includes giving opportunities to people who may need a bit of extra support in the workplace.

But those with disabilities miss out

“The issue that drove the idea for the job fair was the lack of employment opportunities for people with disabilities,” Di said. “Our Local Area Coordinators had many NDIS participants who would normally have benefited from employment goals in their plans, but due to lack of on-the-job support services in Isaac these goals were simply unrealistic.”

The Isaac region has also been impacted by the ongoing withdrawal of services from regional areas, including disability services, and this was exacerbated when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and many outreach services stopped.

“If you’re coming from Mackay it’s a three-hour trip out there and three hours back, and COVID meant most service providers pulled back,” Di said.

Job Fair takes shape

Feros Care got together with local DES providers last year to brainstorm solutions about how best to service this rural (and in part remote) area. It was from those meetings that a timeframe for holding a job fair first emerged, which she then took to other community services, schools and employers.

Mining company BMA was an early enthusiast, and Feros Care worked with BMA’s inclusive and diverse team to look at sustainable employment for people who may need support on the job. BMA’s support also opened doors to other miners.

“It was a lot of work to organise the fair but the reception was amazing, there’s such a strong community spirit out there,” she said.

“The main thing we emphasised was that while the job fair was open to any job seeker in the local community, we really wanted to create opportunities for people who were ready to work but may need support in the workplace.

Celebrating diverse communities

“Many of our NDIS participants and other vulnerable people in the community have the potential to be loyal, dedicated and hardworking employees, all they need is the opportunity to show what they can do.

“In many ways the job fair wasn’t just about jobs, it was actually a celebration of diverse regional communities and the way we all care for each other. So we set the fair up to be a bit of a fun event, with a great program of guest speakers, live music and entertainment, and refreshments.

Sustainable job outcomes

“Most of the employers present indicated they would be following up with interviews for job seekers, and we’re really hopeful that we’ll get some good, sustainable employment outcomes…there’s already a real buzz about what we’ve achieved.”

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