A grant of $5000 has given Gunnedah and District Chamber of Commerce and Industry a leg-up for 2018.
The chamber received the allocation of funds through the Gunnedah Shire Council’s business partner program and will use the money to address the issue of skills shortages in Gunnedah.
“Why we actually applied for it was for the skills project that we have,” chamber president Stacey Cooke said.
“It will enable us to employ a facilitator - someone like Susan Sims - to coordinate the project and set-up a plan in stages so then we as a committee can help her facilitate that.
“We actually have a lot of skill shortages in agriculture, mining and manufacturing.”
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Mrs Cooke said the chamber has been “working quite closely” with TAFE and Gunnedah Shire Council to address the problem. Gunnedah TAFE will open its doors to future students for TAFE NSW Enrolment Week from January 15-19.
“It’s trying to make those connections with the trades in Gunnedah so they can bring the students and the courses can be run,” Mrs Cooke said.
“We don’t want our kids always having to go over to Tamworth [for TAFE courses].
“When we have a facility here, it’s crazy not to take advantage of that.”
Mrs Cooke said one of the reasons behind the skills shortages was a lack of childcare.
“We have got quite a lot of skilled people in Gunnedah but we can’t get the childcare so one of them has to stay home and look after the children,” she said.
“If we can get the childcare, we can get people back into industry.”
Council’s economic development manager, Charlotte Hoddle said $5000 allocated to the chamber would help the committee to “conduct further detailed analysis in the form of a skills and opportunities audit”.
“This is a research project specifically aimed to develop mitigation strategies around accommodation and childcare availability in the Gunnedah shire,” she said.
“A detailed audit, undertaken by a local specialist research team will determine the true scope of the issue.
“Importantly, understanding and then mitigating quantified issues around accommodation and childcare availability have been identified to us as the crucial first step in working across the shire to build capacity to attract and retain skilled staff. The benefits to the Gunnedah community will be evident with bottlenecks for skilled employment removed and retained.”
The Gunnedah chamber will also focus on strengthening local business this year.
Mrs Cooke said the chamber would like to run more free workshops for its members and hold monthly networking events.
“Good business comes from good relationships,” she said.
“It’s about being a community and all supporting each other.”
The chamber’s previous president Michael Broekman has now taken on the role of vice-president and said 2017 was a “great year” for the chamber.
Highlights included winning the Local Chamber of the Year award at the 2017 New England North West Regional Business Awards, and the Best Local Chamber of Commerce Award at the 2017 NSW Business Chamber State Business Awards.
“Last year, we really worked on our public profile and many thanks goes to the local media outlets that really supported the initiatives of the chamber. But I really believe that our strong public profile put us in good stead in winning the state award,” Mr Broekman said.
“[The award] was great recognition for the hard work the chamber community had done over many years – work that was continued in 2017 in supporting the council initiative for exporting opportunities into China, skills development in presenting Try a Trade, continuing with our training of our employers to make them better employers, which was evident in our growth in membership.
“But one of the great highlights in 2017 was the Spirit of Christmas Fair, which highlighted the sense of community over the festive season.
“Many thanks goes to the Retail Precinct Committee and I’d really urge the local community to talk to the retailers that were involved and let them know what they thought of the Christmas fair because we need to be able to encourage the retail community to get behind it again for 2018.”
Mr Broekman echoed Mrs Cooke’s goals for 2018.
“The one thing as a vice-president I’d like to work on with the rest of the committee is our networking events because it’s an important part of supporting the business community,” he said.
“[It gives] the businesses an opportunity to get together to talk about the good and the bad in business and support each other in what can be quite a difficult challenge at times to run a business.
“It’s an important way to strengthen this wonderful business community.”