NSW urges gap year kids to pick fruit

 

TAFE and school students will be targeted in a new state government campaign to get young people to take up a "gap year" in regional NSW in a bid to fill critical labour shortages.

The campaign will pitch employment in regional agriculture, hospitality and tourism which have faced dramatic worker shortages due to the ban on international travel.

A survey of 156 regional hospitality businesses found a shortfall of 1172 workers in ­regionally based bars, kitchens and front of house positions. Some individual businesses listed up to 50 entry level ­vacancies.

Alex Yates, 18, from Frenchs Forest wants to go fruit picking to earn some cash before uni starts. Picture: Justin Lloyd
Alex Yates, 18, from Frenchs Forest wants to go fruit picking to earn some cash before uni starts. Picture: Justin Lloyd

The survey was carried out by the AHA, Clubs NSW and Accommodation Association in December 2020, and des­cribed as a "very conservative snapshot".

Monthly casual labour ­demand in NSW for harvest workers is between 1700 and 5100 per month.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Minister for Regional Youth Bronnie Taylor will launch the campaign on Wednesday with celebrity chef Matt Moran at Avorama avocado farm.

"Regional NSW is on track for recovery but we desperately need a helping hand to support businesses on that journey," Mr Barilaro said.

A new government website, which launches today, will connect young people with ­industry and identify key shortage areas.

Ms Taylor said the program offered the benefits of a traditional overseas right-of-passage trip without the expense of plane tickets.

Coffs Harbour banana and avocado farmer Paul Shoker. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Coffs Harbour banana and avocado farmer Paul Shoker. Picture: Nathan Edwards

"People who have spent their youth working in reg­ional communities will tell you about the adventures that shaped their identity, the lifelong connection made and the lifeskill they've taken with them from the bush to the boardroom," she said.

Coffs Harbour banana and avocado farmer Paul Shoker has suffered his "worst year ever" out on the land, losing "thousands upon thousands" of kilograms of fruit due to the shortage of fruit pickers.

"I think it's a great idea to get young Aussies out here, these jobs are waiting for them", Mr Shoker said.

Alex Yates, 18, from Forestville finished Year 12 in ­November and is "weighing up" his options for university or taking a gap year in 2021.

"I've not completely deci­ded on my uni degree, I'm thinking of taking a gap year to earn money and that's where the fruit picking comes in," Mr Yates said.

"It would be a great opportunity to see more of Australia and get some perspective on what I want to do, plus earn some money and make new friends."

Originally published as NSW urges gap year kids to pick fruit

Coffs Harbour banana and avocado farmer Paul Shoker. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Coffs Harbour banana and avocado farmer Paul Shoker. Picture: Nathan Edwards

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