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VERTO is an award winning, not-for-profit organisation assisting businesses and individuals with all their apprenticeship, employment and training needs. Our expertise covers a range of areas including Aboriginal services, Australian apprenticeships services, disability services, employment services and vocational training to help businesses, individuals and local industry to thrive. Our mission is to positively impact the lives of individuals and communities and we’ve built a track record of exemplary customer service over 35 years, built around an ethical approach.You'll find the team in over 40 locations across New South Wales.

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How big business can support regional Australia – and why they should

How big business can support regional Australia – and why they should

By Ron Maxwell - CEO

It’s important for all Australians to get behind our regions to keep our wider economy strong and big businesses have the potential to play a stronger role in these communities. I was heartened to read the recent announcement of a QANTAS Pilot Academy to be opened in Toowoomba, in Queensland, and it got me thinking about how more corporates can create training opportunities in our regions – and why they should.

I've talked before about the importance of bringing training opportunities to regional Australia. Among a host of benefits, it plays a role in reversing population decline and increases employment opportunities, and it also benefits businesses and the wider economy alike. 

Regional Australia is an important part of the broader Australian economy and it's important that we foster economic growth in these areas. Often, when we talk numbers in regional Australia, there is a focus on the negative; higher unemployment, fewer jobs, but there are a number of positive statistics we should focus more on. Almost 8 million people live outside capital cities, 57 per cent of our exports come from agriculture, forestry and fishing and mining, industries that are predominately located in our regions, and 45 cents in every tourist dollar is spent outside our cities.  

It can lead to a wealth of community benefits 

Bringing corporate facilities to regional Australia is about more than just training opportunities; there is a massive flow on effect for local communities.  Thinking about the QANTAS example, firstly, the centre needs to be built, bringing construction opportunities to locals. Then, once constructed it will need to be staffed and maintained, creating a range of administrative, maintenance, and hospitality jobs.

The centre will no doubt attract the next generation of pilots from all over the country, and while they may only be temporary residents, they are spending money at local businesses and creating more demand for hospitality, retail and even health services in the region.  

Building a centre like this can also encourage more businesses to move to the same region, increasing the demand for new infrastructure to support the growing population, providing another source of job opportunity.

Often, when a business chooses a regional area as a hub for training or services, they have a vested interest in supporting the community. Whether by offering facilities for use to community groups, funding services, or holding community events, it's often in their best interests to support local initiatives, and the community can stand to benefit. 

The business can reap rewards too 

Regional Australia has much to offer businesses, from the availability of land to a ready and willing workforce, many organisations can benefit from choosing a regional base. 

Our cities are crowded and finding space for large-scale activities, like the flight training school, is near-on impossible.  Even when the land is available on city fringes, it's expensive. In regional Australia we have wide open space available at a fraction of the cost.

With a 'jobs boom' underway, finding workers in metropolitan areas is more competitive than ever. In many regions, the number of workers outstrips the number of jobs, offering organisations access to a ready and willing workforce. 

It’s also a great way for businesses to show their commitment to supporting all Australians. With corporate social responsibility high on the agenda, companies like QANTAS, who take the initiative to support regional Australia can turn it into a great public relations opportunity too. 

It's a win for the wider economy  

Long-term unemployment in Australia costs the public purse in many ways – from lost productivity and the cost of welfare, to increased burdens on the public health, housing and corrections and justice systems. In fact, it was estimated to cost $13.6 billion in 2017 alone.  

Long-term unemployment is typically more prevalent in our regions than our cities for one key reason– lack of job and training opportunities. 

Corporate facilities bring a host of direct and indirect jobs; as the local population grows, the demand for services grows too, bringing opportunities in a wide range of industries.

Governments have a role 

Last month, I discussed the importance of government funding for training opportunities to support skills demand in regional areas, and this investment in skill-building is equally important when it comes to attracting businesses to our regions. 

And while it can feel a little bit chicken and egg – there is no demand for skills without job opportunities, but it can be hard to attract job opportunities to an area without the skills to fill them - it's incumbent upon our policy-makers to have the foresight to invest in our regions. 

While government incentives to business can be seen as a 'hand-out' to corporates, they can play a huge role in attracting business to regional areas and reducing the economic and social burden of long-term unemployment.  In my mind, the financial and social return on investment is important in the long-term too. 

In my opinion, encouraging more businesses to invest in regional areas is an important part of the puzzle to reverse population decline, address the economic and social issues of unemployment, and strengthen local economies. Realising the economic opportunities of strong regional economies is something everyone should be invested in; it has the potential to be a win for us all. 

How regional Australia can capitalise on the 'jobs boom'.

How regional Australia can capitalise on the 'jobs boom'.

By Ron Maxwell - CEO

According to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian 'jobs boom' is in full swing, with the number of new jobs created increasing month on month, and unemployment at an all-time low.

How this impacts individuals and communities depends on a number of factors. Location plays a big part; it’s no surprise that job growth is concentrated in our metropolitan areas, but there are opportunities for regional Australia too.  

New jobs for regional Australia

The Regional Australia Institute is predicting 243,865 new jobs over the next three years in regional Australia, with the NSW regions of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, Illawarra, and the Mid North Coast amongst those who will benefit the most. 

Healthcare and social assistance is tipped to be the biggest employer, followed by education and training. With a number of big infrastructure projects in progress, from the Parkes Freight Terminal to the Dubbo Hospital, regional Australia also has many job opportunities for those in the construction industry. 

For these communities, the jobs boom will make it easier to find ongoing employment and potentially reverse population decline in some areas, however, to realise the full benefits, I believe two things must occur. 

Wages need to grow in line with household expenses

For the jobs boom to have the best outcome for regional communities, wages must rise in line with the cost of living. Wage growth in Australia has been stagnant for some time, and a buoyant job market won't necessarily help this.  If we don’t see an equilibrium between cost of living and wages, people often stop spending on all but the necessities. 

This tightening of the belt is felt by communities of all sizes, but it can be particularly damaging for rural and regional economies. Drive down any main street in regional Australia and it quickly becomes apparent that a large percentage of the businesses are small businesses owned by locals, employing locals. 

What also becomes apparent, is the number of For Lease signs in shop windows. The number of commercial vacancies is often a good indicator of the health of the local economy. When household spending is restricted, local businesses feel the loss keenly and often very personally – income from small business pays rent or mortgages and puts food on the table for many regional families.

We must build the skills to meet demand

If we are going to effectively support the growing demand for healthcare workers and keep jobs in regional Australia, we must provide the qualified workers. I've talked before about how access to education isn’t always equal for regional-based learners, and this will need to change if we, as a country, are to adequately meet the demand these jobs will create. In fact, the Regional Australia Institute says that "Meeting the job demand in regions with the suitable skilled workers will be fundamental to the ability of regions to take on these job growth opportunities."  

Many of the jobs in the growth industries require vocational education and training (VET) qualifications, and with a VET sector review underway, it's the perfect time for our governments to look at a coordinated strategy to increase opportunities and access to education in rural and regional areas.  While TAFE has a strong presence in our regional communities, TAFE can't possibly do everything required to meet the skills demand, there needs to be equal access to a range of quality VET providers. 

And Regional Australia is crying out for opportunities to train young people and keep them in the community; you only have to look at how quickly the quota was filled for the government's Wage Subsidy for regional apprentices. In 11 days, 1630 subsidised apprenticeships were filled, demonstrating the strong demand for opportunities to build local skills.  While it's been a great success, it’s clear there is a need for further opportunities and funding if we are going to equip regional workers with the skills to meet demand.

Career transitions will play a role

As some industries are predicted to experience growth, others, such as manufacturing, are set to decline further. Looking at the ways we can support Australians to transition to new industries and career paths will play a role in both reskilling these workers and meeting the skill demands of growth industries. With an ageing population, government-backed programs, such as Skills Checkpoint and Career Transitions Assistance, are a big part of the puzzle.

For many regions, job growth will be much slower, and we need to think about how to stimulate the labour market in these areas too. Career transition programs can help these communities too, putting a focus on skilling people in the areas of the greatest demand, making it easier for people to find employment and stay in their home towns. 

Overall, Australia's jobs boom has much to offer regional economies. With a VET sector review currently underway, we have a unique opportunity to build the skills our regional areas need to flourish into the future – let's hope Australia can make the most of it. 

Stakes higher than ever for VET sector review

Stakes higher than ever for VET sector review

By Ron Maxwell - CEO

There's no question in my mind that the VET sector needs an overhaul, and the recent announcement of a wholesale government review has been welcomed by many. But for me, one question looms large: Will they get it right? 

During my time in the sector, I've seen smaller reviews come and go without making the large-scale change that will make the difference to not only students, but industries and the economy as a whole. Now with skills shortages upon us or looming in many of our trades and key sectors, and disruption impacting every industry, the stakes are high.

For me, there are some key areas that will need to be addressed if the review is to achieve the outcomes the sector needs to succeed, and one of these is increasing engagement with industry. The whole purpose of the VET sector is to provide students with the competencies Australian industries need to thrive, so hearing from those at the coalface is vital.

Microbusinesses need a voice

We are experiencing immense disruption across all industries and undertaking a VET sector review now creates the opportunity to develop a sector that is responsive – if the right voices are given airtime.  Often, in these reviews, industry engagement involves reaching out to peak bodies but, while there is validity in their opinions, this approach is missing a key audience.  

Microbusinesses are key employers of VET graduates; small business tradespeople or family-run businesses, for example. They are at the frontline, and if the review is to be successful, in my opinion, they need a seat at the table too. 

Once there is clarity around what is needed at the coalface, there is also an opportunity to increase sector agility and streamline process to respond appropriately. 

Innovation must be encouraged

 I've talked before about the challenges presented by lengthy course review processes and rigid regulations and addressing this is an important piece of the puzzle.

Current regulations are often black and white and checklist-based, with compliance at the centre of decision-making.  And while compliance is important, it's often too focused on the journey, rather than the destination. When dealing with a competency-based system, like VET, the question should be as simple as "does the student possess the competency" instead of getting caught up in how they got there.  This is only exacerbated by regulators being chronically underfunded and understaffed, leaving little space for new ideas to be considered.

The regulatory environment is, in my opinion, stifling innovation, as providers are afraid to try anything outside the box, lest it be deemed non-compliant.  But in a time of such great disruption, innovation is necessary to keep Australian industry competitive in a global and fast-paced market. In fact, according to research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, around 50 per cent of all economic growth is driven by it

Technology has to be at the centre 

Today, every industry is impacted by technology, and the VET sector needs to better incorporate existing and emerging technologies into course delivery.

The rise of robotics and artificial intelligence across every industry is only set to grow.  What was once limited to technology companies is rapidly becoming part of everyday life in a broad spectrum of industries, just look, for example, at how virtual reality is set to transform the retail experience

In fact, all our industries are impacted by technology in so many different ways.  In our heavy trades, machinery is advancing so rapidly, and VET students need access to these technologies if they are going to become competent users of them in the workplace. 

Much of this comes down to one of the other key issues for me: Funding.  In many cases, students are learning their trades on dated equipment as providers don’t have access to the funds required to upgrade them. 

Funding disparities a challenge 

Education is widely thought to be the key to navigating our digital future and keeping Australia competitive in a global marketplace, so it's no surprise that universities and schools have seen increases in funding over recent years.  What is surprising, however, is that the VET sector overall has seen a decrease. 

Spending is largely ad hoc and funding models are decided at a state level, meaning that there are disparities across the country, creating an uneven playing field.  Rural and regional areas are often the victims, not getting adequate funding to deliver local education options – only accelerating the decline of local populations as people migrate to metropolitan areas in search of employment and training opportunities, and exacerbating a raft of social issues in the community.

It's not just in funding – the VET sector faces an uneven playing field when it comes to attracting school leavers too. 

School systems need to support VET 

Our current high school system is geared towards one outcome:  the ATAR, a ranking that only applies to university admission.  Add to this that school ranking measures university entrants as a key metric, it's easier to see why the system is actively encouraging students toward university options, thus painting VET courses as a poor cousin. 

Contrary to this mindset, more than half a million new jobs in the next five years won't require a degree, and VET offers school leavers such a variety of opportunities, it is key that students are encouraged to consider these options.

There are many opportunities to be realised 

Holding such a large-scale review at a time when disruption is changing every facet of our workforce is a good thing.  There are many areas to examine, but also many opportunities.   

The key to success lies in having the foresight and fortitude to do things a little differently, not just rolling out the same old playbook.  If the review can put innovation and future-proofing at the forefront, the outcome just might have the impact required to strengthen the VET sector and drive economic growth into the future.  

Financial subsidies to increase regional apprenticeships in 2019

Financial subsidies to increase regional apprenticeships in 2019

By Ron Maxwell - CEO

The employment situation in our regional and rural areas is always going to be tougher for both businesses and individuals than it is in our metropolitan areas, and this has a flow on to the local community, and even the economy as a whole. 

Stimulating employment in our regional areas has been on the political agenda for some time, as has addressing the skills shortages in many of our trades – two major challenges facing the labour market in Australia today.  That's why I am pleased that the Federal Government has announced a $60 million wage subsidy for apprenticeships in our regional and rural communities.  

From 1stJanuary 2019, eligible businesses can receive wage subsidies of up to 75 per cent for first year, 50 per cent for second year and 25 per cent for third year apprentices, balancing out the short-term cost for employers and leading to long-term gain for us all.  

It will help small business 

When it comes to our traditional trades, many of the players in our regional communities are small businesses, family concerns or individual tradespeople and it can feel like an expensive exercise to take on an apprentice. 

In the first year of an apprenticeship, as a young person is just learning the ropes of a new trade, productivity and, therefore, return on investment, for the employer can be lower. For a small business, this short-term cost can be crippling, even if it is for long-term gain, and can be a roadblock when it comes to taking on an apprentice.  

The whole community can benefit 

Local businesses are at the heart of the community in our regional areas, providing services, employing local people, and often supporting local initiatives, such as charity events or sporting teams.  Helping these businesses stay strong into the future will provide support for the wider community.  

I've talked before about the disastrous impacts a lack of employment opportunities can have on a community, with two of the main ones being population decline, as young people migrate to cities to find employment and, of course, long-term unemployment.  

The impacts of long-term unemployment are felt at an individual, community and national level, with the costs of welfare, support services, and healthcare rising in line with unemployment rates.  

And it's no different when it comes to population decline.  Population decline often leads to a drop in property prices, reduction in new construction activity, the closure of local businesses as demand for services decreases, less job opportunities, and a significant decline in skills within the local community as people leave to find employment - and it can be very hard to reverse. 

The subsidy will encourage small businesses in regional areas to take on an apprentice, or even additional apprentices by reducing the financial burden, creating local jobs, and even potentially addressing skills shortages in the process. 

Skill shortages may be eased

Not only is the subsidy designed to stimulate local economies, it's also designed to address the skill shortages that are facing our traditional trades and small businesses are at the heart of many of these. 

From carpenters and locksmiths to cooks and hairdressers, Australia needs more tradespeople and this subsidy applies directly to trades on our National Skills Needs List.  Addressing the skills on this list is a top priority for the Australian government and encouraging more small businesses and tradespeople to take on apprentices is a step toward this goal. 

It's part of a broader support package 

Supporting and growing our apprenticeships is not just a financial issue, and while the subsidy does form an incentive for employers, it's also part of a package that employers can access when they sign on an apprentice through an Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) provider, like VERTO. 

AASN providers work with employers to help them access these incentives and assist with paperwork and administration to ensure this doesn’t become a burden for time-poor business owners, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. 

We connect employers with the right apprentices and provide ongoing mentoring support to help young apprentices and employers have a long and productive relationship, that ultimately, benefits the individual, the business and the wider community. 

At VERTO, we welcome this financial support as another piece of the apprenticeships puzzle and look forward to working with more businesses to upskill young people in our regional and rural communities in the new year. 

To find out more about how VERTO can help employer’s access incentives, click here

What our
clients say . . .

  • "Our local VERTO group of consultants have been in the business for many years now and have a very strong knowledge of the requirements of our apprentices and trainees. The team are always available to answer any questions that may arise, making their customer service excellent. It is with their commitment and dedication that we as a large company are able to achieve an above average completion rate for our apprentices and trainees."

    Mark Smith, Director - Masterfoods
  • "VERTO’s highly professional and dedicated Careergate™ team have been immensely conducive to our Post School Options Program. We were fortunate to have them as Guest Speakers at a work readiness program preparing students for the world of work. VERTO have gone above and beyond their commitment to our students, delivering information about apprenticeships and traineeships, and helping develop their knowledge about the job seeking cycle."

    Suza Puljic, Specialist Teacher Student Services - Catholic Education Diocese
  • "THE VERTO team are fantastic and we appreciate their expertise and support. They always go the extra mile in everything they do…. nothing is ever too much trouble."

    Samantha Palise, Pathways Program Manager - Mid Coast Connect
  • "VERTO provide great advice and support throughout the entire recruitment process, from assisting with the position description and advertising, receiving applications, to providing office space for interviews. Friendly professionalism, courtesy and prompt responses all added to a positive result – which our organisation greatly appreciates."

    Jenny Bell, Manager - Cowra Tourism Corporation
  • "VERTO care about my wellbeing and helped me find a great job! I now work outdoors with a friendly bunch of people, for a local employer that treats employees with compassion and understanding. I’m now looking forward to a long term future in the workforce."

    Liam McFarlane - Former Job Seeker
  • "The disability employment services team are very caring. They take time with me and for me and are very understanding. They go above and beyond to help me in all aspects, not just employment."

    Stephen - DES Client
  • "VERTO has been very flexible and helpful with my training needs. The consultants and Trainers have been fantastic and there is always someone around to help me when I need support."

    Natasha Kauri - Learner
  • "VERTO responded professionally and efficiently to all requests for help. I cannot thank the organisation enough for their positive and professional manner."

    Rachael Jefferson-Buchanan - Tenancy Client
  • "Our VERTO consultant provides exceptional customer service, expertly handling all our traineeship needs and being available whenever we need information or advice."

    Kay Dhami, Managing Director - My Kindy Early Learning Centres
  • "Our VERTO Consultant has demonstrated significant industry knowledge and developed a tailored approach to our business needs time and time again."

    Jordan Shoveller, Duty Manager - Davistown RSL

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