Professor weighs in on future of regional employment
A LOOK into the crystal ball for post-COVID-19 job prospects in the regions could involve big employers tapping into regional workforces online thanks to changing employment trends.
The world has gone through a major upheaval in the wake of COVID-19, but the level of impact that will have on the regions as Australia enters into a recession will largely come down to governments making the right decisions.
That’s according to CQUniversity academic Julian Teicher, who has weighed in on the future of employment in regional Australia.
“We still in the crystal ball phase – we’ve got the governor of the Reserve Bank saying things aren’t as bad as we thought they might be,” the professor of employment and human resources said.
Factors such as an earlier than expected easing of restrictions has played a part in that, but it’s not a simple equation.
“The compounding factor is employers have gone into panic mode so the unfortunate thing with any economic downturn is it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Prof Teicher said.
“It’s only limited or reduced to the extent the government intervenes.”
Prof Teicher said government support was vital in instilling financial confidence and likened stopping the Jobseeker program in September to taking the foot off the brake of economic progress.
But he said the growth of working at home seen during the pandemic was set to accelerate the shift towards online.
“If you’re in regional Australia, the further north you go, the fewer job opportunities you get,” Prof Teicher said.
Depending on location, regional towns and cities rely heavily on mining, agriculture and the public sector.
He said with regional Australia already struggling prior to COVID-19, the situation remained similar, but what had changed was a culture of employment that could see more jobs available online, increasing employment potential for those in the regions.
The unprecedented number of people working from home during lockdown has instilled a sense of trust in employers around having staff working online, rather than in an office.
“The online environment is only going to grow in the wake of this,” Prof Teicher said.
“Big employers will be keen to hire people they hardly see. The problem is until now, the NBN has not done a lot for regional Queensland.
“This is a case where we might want to train people for online jobs.”
While employers are gaining confidence in staff working from home, there are two other factors Prof Teicher says will be imperative to getting people back into work.
He says it’s the right time for people to build their skill bases with courses, but that there should be a range of options made available so those who don’t want to complete a full university degree can engage in shorter courses.
Deferring HECS debts and waiving TAFE fees would be another suggestion in helping those looking to get back on their feet through study.
Prof Teicher says it’s vital the government provide people “on the ground” who can provide career advice for adults in regional areas.
The crisis, he says, has provided a the potential to “address some long-term problems with living in regional areas”.
Hiring regional workers online, providing courses and guidance and helping students financially could put the regions in a better place.
“It’s a relatively low-cost commitment,” Prof Teicher said.