The first Heathcote and District Employment Expo took place on Tuesday, 2nd of May, showcasing 30 businesses, groups, and government departments from the region. The event aimed to address the employment and skills shortage in Heathcote by connecting job seekers with employers and employment support organisations.
The idea for the expo came from a discussion between GROW Bendigo’s project manager, Rob Murphy, and CEO of Heathcote Health, Dan Douglass. Murphy expressed the need to take tangible actions to help people find employment in the Heathcote community. “A lot of people leave the community; young kids go to school in Bendigo and then don’t come back,” Rob explained.
Organised by GROW Bendigo in collaboration with Heathcote Health, Heathcote Community House, Jobs Victoria, Workforce Australia, and the City of Greater Bendigo, participating organisations were all eager to engage with job seekers and provide them with potential pathways to employment.
Rob emphasised that the goal was not only finding immediate job placements but also helping individuals find pathways into work. “If someone comes here today and they go, I can’t get into a job, but I can find a pathway, then we’re just as happy with that,” he stated.
A recent arrival in Heathcote, Simon Macaulay, previously a secondary school teacher and then employed in the transport sector, faced uncertainty when his job ended during the pandemic. However, he found assistance through the employment service provider APM to pursue his passion for art and start his own business.
Simon praised the personalised support he received, highlighting the difference in the level of engagement compared to his experience in the city. “When I came here, it was different. APM helped get me a laptop, got me into the SEE program,” he explained.
The expo provided a platform for Simon to showcase his artwork and share how the support he received allowed him to embark on a new career path. Despite being on the housing register and facing financial challenges, Simon is determined to rebuild his life. “I’m on the home list queue, and I’m like, ‘How do you get from here back to something when you’ve got no money?'” he expressed. Attending the expo allowed him to demonstrate the progress he has made.
As the Heathcote and District Employment Expo grows, GROW Bendigo encourages more organisations and businesses to participate. The expo serves as a vital platform for fostering connections, addressing the skills shortage, and supporting job seekers in their journey towards employment.