Across The Region
Summer has come early across the region and there is certainly a festive feeling in the air. Christmas trees are popping up everywhere and early sightings of Santa have been reported. (on the Santa note, I can’t work out why some smart designer hasn’t created a more Aussie style suit for the poor guy, or would that just frighten small children?)
This week the North Coast Agrifood Alliance met to discuss progress to date and plans for the future. This group is facilitated by the Department of Primary Industries and is attended by various government department and industry representatives. Action groups representing specific industry sectors report to the core steering group. Exactly how this will work into the future is unknown as yet but more information will be available in the near future. The group agreed the clustered approach was useful for sharing information, networking and partnership building for the betterment of the industry as a whole.
Exactly what innovation means in our region is still a puzzle to me and I’m looking forward to our region wide innovation survey early next year to discover more. In the meantime it was great to meet with Wayne Houlden (Founder and CTO) and Tom Richardson (CEO) at Janison in Coffs Harbour. Janison delivers online learning solutions to a broad range of clients throughout the world from its offices across Coffs Harbour, Sydney, Singapore and Auckland.
My conversation with the Wayne and Tom made me realise just how important 21st Century skills are and I wondered if our schools are truly embracing their roles in training kids for jobs of the future, not just the jobs that are about to today (many of which will no longer exist). We also discussed the notion of attracting new tech businesses to the area and where they might locate in the region. Despite my preconceived (and in hindsight rather naïve) ideas, the guys informed me such companies are quite likely to relocate for lifestyle factors and thereby choose a location (such as the Jetty) to hang the shingle – as opposed to the industrial warehouse I had in mind.
You may be aware that our regional plan is in the final stages and it’s a high priority for me to ensure it truly addresses the priorities of the region it represents. I’ve been consulting with various stakeholders this week including (but not limited to) Coffs Harbour City Council and Mid Coast Communities. Both organisations are currently in planning mode making the conversations very timely.
Planning processes can be tricky for publicly facing entities who are often told they have either ‘over consulted’ or ‘not consulted enough’ – it’s a fine balance. Coffs City Council have utilised a broad range of media including Instagram, Facebook and face to face consultation in their current My Coffs process. They won’t please everyone, no process ever can but if this work doesn’t represent a significant proportion of the population I’ll be very surprised.
A completely different collaborative process, I met with the Nambucca Vehicle Body Manufacturing Cluster which has been gently nurtured by Nambucca Shire Council’s Business Development Manager (and RDAMNC Board Member) Wayne Lowe since the late 1990s. Wayne has worked alongside the cluster to support staff engagement and retention, training, infrastructure development and other industry collaboration. Now with many new CEO’s on board it’s incredible to note the industry has risen from the grassroots to employing over 250 staff across the sector and generating $30M in manufactured products per annum.
Finally on the topic of collaboration The Hastings Business Enterprise Network meeting provided a great opportunity to meet and share information with local business owners. I participated in a panel discussion about growth in the region. While breakfast meetings are usually out of the realms of possibility for me (I’m usually packing school lunch boxes like many other families across the region) I was pleased that I made the effort, reminding me how important it is to get out and about to such events and to listen to the thoughts and ideas of others. It’s too easy to become isolated even when in a public role (silo thinking warning).
Pathways to employment have been a strong theme in the week with a meeting in Kempsey mid week with the United Employment Solutions Accord. It was good to reconnect with some former colleagues including Jenni Rosser who delivers the New Careers For Aboriginal People (NCAP) program. Jenni’s program is a case in point of the challenges brought about as successful programs are under funded. Jenni supports hundreds of Aboriginal people each year to search for and attain outcomes in employment and education. She is the only person working on this program in her region between Grafton and Taree.
I’m currently working on a pathways project which addresses the blockages and opportunities for people (in particular youth) who are seeking work. Underfunding at critical points is one of numerous key issues.
One of the other issues which is a particularly loud bee in my bonnet is the stigma attached to people who are unemployed, and the way in which they are treated by some as a result. One such example is the chair incident I referred to several posts ago (here). I dropped into the mentioned Centrelink office this week and noted despite my ‘valued’ complaint, the chairs were still glaring at the front doors. (I assure you, you’ll be hearing about this topic again).
That’s it for me this week.
By the way, don’t miss the super moon tomorrow (Monday) night.
Have a great week,
Kerry (CEO, RDAMNC)