Get Growing Project underway for Gippsland job seekers
A large number of Gippsland job seekers have been isolated and had their job search activities stalled during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Gippsland Regional Agrifood Employment Program (GRAEP)has been acutely aware of the impact that this has been having and created an activity to help called "Get Growing".
Participants in the Get Growing project are provided with instructions and equipment to begin to produce a home vegetable garden, with a fantastic start up kit containing everything they'll need to plant seeds suitable to grow at this time of year, including soil mix, garden tools, seedling pots, a mini hot house, and of course the seeds !
The first crop for group to cultivate will be spring onion, beetroot and lettuce.
Existing, newly registered ( or yet to register ! ) job seekers are encouraged to take part in the program with a number of people of all ages across East Gippsland, South Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley already involved.
Everyone is then encouraged to join the Get Growing Facebook group where successes can be shared and problems can be solved with their produce gardens. The project also provides another touch point to discuss employment opportunities as they arise, and keep participants in ready mode for future jobs by keeping their resumes up to date.
The Get Growing idea was the brainchild of GRAEP Participant Liasion Officer, Nicki Keddie, and together with GRAEP Manager Julie Tuhi, the concept was developed and the program has been launched in three locations so far; Bairnsdale, Traralgon and Foster - with more locations to come as more job seekers get involved.
"We saw it as a very relevant and engaging way to stay connected to our job seekers, keep them motivated and have a positive project to focus on" said Nicki.
"Food security has been a concern for lots of people during COVID-19, so for our Get Growing participants, learning a new skill like cultivating your own veggie garden is not only great for your mental health, it can also help you put fresh food on the table".
Being a home based project, Get Growing also has the potential to get the whole household involved, as well as connecting people online right across Gippsland.
"By growing their own vegetables, everyone in the house can benefit from the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment when they can pick their on fresh produce and cook healthy meals using it"
Whilst COVID-19 restrictions have been eased slightly, GRAEP Manager Julie Tuhi believes it may take a little more time for job opportunities in some sectors to materialise for some of the job seekers registered with the program, and the time cycle for growing plants from seeds may be a good way to develop patience as the economy recovers.
"Growing plants from seeds takes time, and as the economy starts to move again, having patience for the right job opportunity to come up, as well as keeping a positive outlook, is really important - so our aim is for this project to help people of all ages on a number of levels whilst we continue to connect with employers to understand what their needs are and will be in the weeks and months ahead" said Julie.
The Get Growing project offers a platform to engage GRAEP participants with activities to do at home, stimulate health and wellbeing, provide support and bring people together even though they are spread across Gippsland.
The first round of Get Growing participants are already engaging with others via the Get Growing Facebook group page, posting photos of their planted seeds and sharing updates of their progress.
The end goal for all GRAEP activities is to support job seekers into employment and offer post placement support.
Initially Get Growing was to aid and support existing GRAEP participants that are unemployed or have been impacted by Covid-19 in their jobs, but the scope has widened with Nicki and Julie encouraging all Gippsland job seekers to join in the fun.
"We have plenty of kits available, so job seekers all over Gippsland are very welcome to register with us, and join the Get Growing community - the benefits of being involved go way beyond growing vegetables - and the experience of learning how to grow your own might even grow a job seeker's interest in a job in the horticulture sector!"
To join the Get Growing Program, connect with the GRAEP team and fill out an easy online job seeker form,head to our GRAEP page