Ongoing Support for Gippsland Job Seekers and Employers


   Friday 17th April, 2020

With an attitude that you give every day 120 percent no matter what, Zach Bartlett has gained a lot of experience over the last few years across different casual and ad hoc jobs in various businesses in and around East Gippsland.

Whilst the exposure to these businesses has been beneficial in growing Zach’s skill set, the ongoing lack of permanency and the irregularity of income does present a number of challenges, like a limited capacity to budget or make any middle to long term plans, both professionally and personally.

Over the last 18 months, as the search continues for the right permanent role that will get him on a more stable, long term pathway, Zach has been supported by the team from the Gippsland Regional Agrifood Employment Program.

He first came into contact with GRAEP when he was registered with Mission Australia’s Transition to Work programme which helps early school leavers find their way in the workforce.

When the Mission Australia Case Manager discovered that Zach’s goal was to find work that involved heavy farm machinery, the collaboration began with the GRAEP team, headed up by Manager Julie Tuhi, who is supported by Coordinator Nicki Keddie.

With a large proportion of the opportunities around heavy machinery likely to surface in the horticulture industry, their initial help for Zach involved a complete review of his current CV and some suggestions about how to edit it and add details that were more relevant to the career path he was wanting to pursue.

Zach is one of many job seekers who has benefited from the regular contact and encouragement from Julie and Nicki, and for him, the range of support has been diverse and has continued to adapt as his needs have changed.

Throughout 2019, as he submitted applications and got short listed for interviews, Julie and Nicki provided Zach with interview practice, continued to identify what general and / or specific training courses could be accessed for him, and arranged the purchase of some of the PPE required for type of roles that he was hoping to secure.

This path to finding the right role hasn’t always been smooth or successful in the long term, but Zach credits the mentoring support that he has received and continues to receive from GRAEP to be a huge help for him staying positive and looking ahead to the next role or traineeship.

“There’s been some challenging times, but being in touch with Julie and Nicki has always kept my spirits up – they’re very professional, but when they call to check in on how you are going, it sort of feels like having a family member looking out for you and making sure that you’re ok “he said.

“When I’ve been a bit nervous about applying for jobs, or going for interviews, they’ve really boosted my confidence and helped me stay positive “.

Zach said the effort that the small team put in to communicating with new employers meant that as a new starter in one of his roles last year, he was able to arrive at the workplace with the right gear, thanks to Julie and Nicki being in close contact with the hiring manager prior to him arriving on site.

He said this really helped with any anxiety associated with starting a new role and working with new people.

“When you don’t have a lot of spare cash to buy anything new, it can make you quite nervous going to a new job if you’re worried about whether you’ve got the right safety boots or that you’re wearing the right work clothes” he said.

“Julie and Nicki were able to take all that stress away by finding out what I needed from the place that had employed me, and then we went shopping together at one of the local PPE shops to get it all before I started “he said.

“It made going to work in that first week so much easier – first of all, knowing that I was in the right gear, and second of all, knowing that I didn’t have to spend a lot of my first pay on work stuff “ Zach concluded ( with a relieved sigh ! ).

As he neared his 18th birthday at the beginning of 2020, Julie and Nicki were able to fund the cost of Zach’s Vic Roads Hazards computer test, two driving lessons and his probationary licence test, which he then passed with ease.

He was very grateful for the support in securing his licence.

“To not have to worry about how I was going to pay for the tests and the lessons meant a lot to me, and now that I have my licence, it means there’s a bigger range of job opportunities that I can look at this year because I can get to work easier “said Zach.

“Without the support of GRAEP in giving me the best chance to pass my driving test, I might not have been as successful the first time going for my licence, which could have held me up, or counted me out with some jobs – but I’m ready with the right gear and now my own transport, so 2020 has definitely got off to a great start “he said.

Julie and Nicki were delighted to see Zach get his licence in early January and say that helping their job seekers by funding items like driving lessons is just one of many ways that they can assist them in their search for long-term full-time employment.

Since joining the GRAEP programme in early 2019, Zach is now better equipped to broaden his job search and explore opportunities across the region – we are looking forward to updating his story in the future with news of a new job!

Part of the ongoing support that GRAEP provides is continued mentoring once their job seekers are placed in jobs or traineeships or they find suitable employment.

At the time of writing, Zach had recently started a job with Darriman Lime, at Woodside in Gippsland, a producer and supplier of high quality lime in Woodside, Gippsland. Due to circumstances associated with COVID-19, he’s been temporarily laid off, but will be welcomed back when the business is able to accommodate him in their workforce again.

In the meantime, Zach will remain in regular contact with the GRAEP team who will be available to him to work through any challenges or issues during this time. Together they may be able to identify some online courses or learning that he can be doing in the downtime to build and broaden his skill set, readying him for re-entry to the workforce again post the disruption driven by COVID-19.

Zach encourages anyone wanting help to find a role in the agrifood sector to not hesitate in getting in touch with GRAEP.

“They really do take you under their wing, and help you out in so many ways – so don’t be shy, talk to them today – you’ll definitely find the job searching stuff so much easier when you’ve got their help – and they’re just really committed to helping you get a job and be successful” he concluded.

This one on one support is the foundation of the success of the GRAEP approach.

It involves working closely with people of all ages and backgrounds in their employment search, and then continuing to provide mentoring and other support once they have found a job, so they can help maximise the opportunity to that job evolving to be secure, long term and permanent employment.

“Often we have people who are either new to the workforce or getting back into the workforce after an extended period of unemployment – so we keep in touch with them on a regular basis to help them adjust to a new job and workplace “said GRAEP Manager, Julie Tuhi.

“This might involve us giving them a call or sending them a text once a week to talk about any challenges they might be having, or any help they need to buy appropriate work clothing, or access further courses or skills based training “she said.

GRAEP matches job seekers in Gippsland with employment opportunities in the agrifood sector, as well as present job-ready people for employers and tap into a range of incentives and support services that help new employees make a smooth transition.

With financial support from the Victorian Government via Jobs Victoria, GRAEP is facilitated by Food & Fibre Gippsland and delivers significant value benefit for both job seekers and employers across Gippsland, with close to 160 people placed in long term employment since the programme commenced in 2017.