Does picking strawberries in one of Australia's most beautiful regions sound like a sweet job?
Sunshine Coast Council has partnered with Moreton Bay Regional Council, Regional Development Australia Moreton Bay, Growcom, the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association and the Food and Agribusiness Network to deliver The Sweetest Job campaign, a project powered by The JobShow.
Economic Development Portfolio Councillor Stephen Robinson said the campaign aimed to increase local employment opportunities, as well as strengthening the supply chain for the local strawberry industry.
"The Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay regions represent 80% plus of the state's strawberry production and strawberry growers in these regions employ 6000 to 8000 pickers and packers at peak times around August and September.
"So the aim of this is to gain a returning workforce of local employees rather than a backpacker 'one season only' workforce, reduce re-training costs and drive job creation within the local economy.
"This uniquely developed recruitment program will connect with Centrelink clients, job active clients and other employment services organisations.
"It will attempt to reach tens of thousands of residents whose personal circumstances may attract them to local seasonal employment in the strawberry fields of the Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay."
President of the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association (QSGA) Luigi Coco said jobseekers could now register their interest at www.thesweetestjob.com.au.
"Getting temporary workers to pick strawberries can often be difficult and many strawberry growers are concerned about a number of factors that could potentially impact the future availability of strawberry farm workers, particularly overseas workers," Mr Coco said.
"This campaign offers our growers the chance to build themselves a stable workforce of local residents.
"Not only will it benefit our industry but also the communities in the region by opening up opportunities for those who may not have considered our industry for work previously.
"Seasonal fruit picking or packing work can be tough at times but there are also numerous benefits including significant financial gains to be made over a short period of time for those who are keen and willing to work hard.
"We are looking forward to seeing positive results for the industry and the community."
Queensland Strawberry Industry Development Officer Jennifer Rowling said the workforce within the strawberry industry had been under increasing threat for a number of years.
"Strawberry production is one of the most labour intensive horticultural crops and in Queensland alone our growers employ between 6000 and 8000 workers each season," she said.
"We would love to see The Sweetest Job initiative raise awareness of the employment opportunities for locals in the strawberry industry and provide our growers with quality local employees who will hopefully become a returning workforce."
Berry Patch Marketing strawberry grower Charmaine Davey said one of the key aims of The Sweetest Job campaign was encouraging more locals to take up and maintain employment in the industry.
"It was only about 10 years ago that the workforce on our farm was almost all local. These days, over 80% of our workers are from overseas," she said.
"As much as we value our foreign workforce who have played a pivotal role in growing this industry to the size it is today, we would love to see a significant increase in local workers who are willing to become a part of our farming family and return each year for strawberry season. We are hoping that this initiative will see that happen."
The Sweetest Job campaign builds on the success of the zero waste strawberry initiative in 2015, a key action of our Regional Economic Development Strategy and Agribusiness industry and investment plan.