Our city transforms with new job trends - Geelong rolling with changes

Posted: 17th Mar

GEELONG as we know it has been transforming in front of our eyes. And yet, like the city’s trendy laneway cafes and eclectic shopping spots, many of the careers that will one day shape our region remain well- kept secrets.

Using data from the 2006 and 2011 census, The Geelong Region Learning and Employment Network (LLEN) has crunched the numbers on our local trending industries.

Unsurprisingly, they reveal a city in transition as our dependence on employment in heavy manufacturing declines and an entirely different breed of Geelong worker emerges.

A workforce dressed in nursing scrubs, beekeeping get-up, Blundstone tradie boots, chef hats and suits.

Some of our fastest- growing careers are popping up in sectors that worried retrenched workers, or career- confused kids, may never have given a second thought.

The data — already a few years old before this story even begins — is propped up by compelling projections on continued industry expansion over the next five years.

Next week, these figures and more will be at your fingertips when the LLEN releases its new free app, DreamReal.

The Geelong-specific app will help locals make realistic, targeted career and training decisions based on solid research and case studies, rather than guessing games.

According to LLEN project officer Marianne Messer, who is also a postgraduate applied learning lecturer at Deakin University, Geelong boasts eight “trending” industries: caring, agribusiness, advanced manufacturing, information and communications technology (ICT), hospitality and tourism, construction, teaching, and transport.

As opposed to the invariably gloomy headlines about Ford, Alcoa and Shell, the news in these industries is almost exclusively looking up.

Careers in caring — which includes health, allied health, community and childcare — are now the region’s most prominent.

Others, particularly in construction and agribusiness — a course being studied by Marcus Oldham College students Courteney Moffat, Lachlan Lynch, Heather Cameron and Lachie Kelly (pictured, right) — are growing at rates faster than the national average.

But it’s the boom in “niche” sectors and careers that has thus far remained largely out of sight, and out of mind, when discussing the region’s employment future.

Advanced manufacturing businesses, such as Carbon Revolution, are already paving the way. Based at Deakin Waurn Ponds, the business produces carbon wheels and hopes to employ 300 workers by 2016.

It’s opportunities like these Geelong’s leaders hope will result from government assistance packages, such as the $24.5 million innovation and investment fund.

“Humans are wired to think about the negative, but we need to remember that Geelong is the second-fastest- growing region in Victoria, after Melbourne,” Ms Messer says. “People often have stereotypes of the jobs that exist in these industries, but they are actually incredibly diverse — from the welfare support workers and personal carers to the agronomists, researchers and financiers working in agribusiness.

“Having this information is so important for educators, policy makers, parents, young people, entrepreneurs — everyone — and making it accessible is a big step forward.”

Committee for Geelong CEO Rebecca Casson emphasises that the region’s continued employment growth will be closely linked to major infrastructure projects and revitalisation of the CBD.

The committee’s recently released report, Transforming Geelong, maps a road towards rebranding Geelong as a “second-tier city”.

Investment in culture and lifestyle projects, improved rail links and healthcare infrastructure, a Geelong port and housing creation all feature in the plan.

Strengthening the Geelong Defence Alliance and continuing to establish Geelong as a centre for disability insurance are also high priorities.

And just days ago, the G21 Regional Alliance released a renewed list of government funding priorities, with the Yarra St Pier and GPAC redevelopment topping the wishlist.

“We’ve stopped using the word transitioning, because we believe Geelong is actually transforming and major innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as attractive social infrastructure, is needed to make that happen and attract the best people,” Ms Casson says. And Transforming Geelong reveals it’s already happening. Our local economy is progressing in virtually all economic indicators, with major development projects worth in excess of $2 billion under way and a further $1.1 billion in new projects planned.

“It can be hard for people to grasp new industries and understand things like carbon fibre, but we are on the precipice of success, and our community needs the courage to remain positive,” Ms Casson says.

LLEN futurist Jude Walker agrees a happy ending is still in store for the region, but warns the journey to success is fraught with obstacles.

“My great concern is that division between the haves and have-nots will keep getting wider and wider,” says Ms Walker, who has studied the region’s prospects extensively.

“This region has lower than state and national educational outcomes and many growth industries will require workers with higher level skills, so we need to think about how to help people become equipped with the skills they need.

“It is also going to be extremely important to engage small to medium businesses in conversation about how to address problems or shortages in the workforce, in order to allow them to grow.”

And she’s certain of opportunities for those willing to plan ahead.