AS the nation continues to experience unprecedented job losses from the fallout of COVID-19, Western Australia's agricultural industry is providing a source of hope as it looks to recruit skilled and unskilled workers into its workforce.
With restrictions on the movement of people expected to have a significant impact on the agricultural labour force, vegetablesWA chief executive officer John Shannon said the industry was looking to employ more Western Australians.
"At the moment our labour supply is stable, but because we have seasonal industries, that means things like avocados and other staples are coming on board with new employment opportunities," Mr Shannon said.
"We will be looking for a range of skilled and unskilled workers, including people that can drive a forklift, drive a truck and also pick and pack produce.
"There is going to be a range of different training opportunities and the opportunity to learn on farms as well.
"It's not going to be hundreds of thousands of jobs, but it's going to be thousands of jobs."
Speaking at the launch of the State government and FoodAllianceWA's Here for WA campaign last week, Mr Shannon said the agricultural sector had collaborated with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) to create an online information hub that would help connect regional employers with casual skilled and unskilled workers.
The site, which enables WA residents to register their interest for work in the food, beverage, agriculture and aquaculture sectors, includes an online searchable employment database for skilled workers under 30 and resources for industry-based career programs.
"While not an employment agency site, the information hub has been designed to assist those looking to work in the sector by showing them where to go for further information and view what job opportunities are available," Mr Shannon said.
Employers are also able to search the online database to find workers who have the relevant skills and qualifications they are looking for.
WA's agriculture and food businesses will have 12 months free access to the online database.
WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said while the website would help fill labour gaps in the industry, it was important that workers did not travel to regional areas until they had secured a job.
"Comply with the latest travel restrictions and keep our communities safe," Ms MacTiernan said.
With the State's agricultural industry relatively insulated from the economic impacts of COVID-19 so far, she said the crisis had reinforced the importance of the agricultural industry.
Mr Shannon agreed that COVID-19 had shone a light on the sector and the hard work farmers do.
"If nothing else, this pandemic has brought things into perspective - you need food on the table and you need farmers and in this hour of need - we're here and we've got you," he said.
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