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Mars Wrigley boss sounds call for governments to promote regional Australia

Industry and governments need to be considering new ways to attract and retain talent to regional hubs, says the head of Mars Wrigley, citing research showing a significant number of Australians are considering moving away from major cities. 

GM Andrew Leakey says towns like Ballarat (pictured above) and Asquith are becoming increasingly attractive places to reside with the cost of living surging in state capitals, especially Sydney and Melbourne. 

Research conducted by YouGov last month of 1010 Australians aged 18 years and older who work and or study in STEM, trades or manufacturing shows three-in-four Australians are open to new career opportunities in regional centres due to the impacts of Covid-19. But they’re not necessarily looking to escape the pandemic – rather their view of the regions has changed as people have become increasingly used to being digitally, rather than physically, connected. 

“We are now living in an era where connectography is more important than geography, and where digital technologies are debunking the old notion of the ‘tyranny of distance’, leading to a revival of the regions,” explains futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson. 

“The pandemic has acted as a circuit breaker for young talents’ future lifestyle decisions. The digital acceleration of the workplace we have witnessed in the last 18-months means that talent has become untethered from central business districts and that opportunity is now digitally distributed across regional Australia for STEM, trades and manufacturing workers,” he said. 

Leakey says YouGov’s data reflects a strong appetite from younger Australians – especially Millennials (79 per cent) and Gen Z (72 per cent) – to make the move from metropolitan areas. 

But he says that despite the interest regional communities need to implement “bold and visionary initiatives” to position themselves as attractive destinations for younger generations. 

“Food and beverage manufacturing is the largest manufacturing industry in Australia but is proving to be one of the most difficult to recruit for.”

Leakey said Mars Wrigley is determined to collaborate with industry and governments to re-imagine ways to attract the next generation of talent to regional areas. 

“It’s important that we attract and recruit the necessary skills and continue to upskill our workforce to future-proof and grow our local manufacturing capability and operations in Australia.  

“Our research found that Australians are motivated to move by modern workplace values like flexibility, personal growth, and industry-competitive pay.”

Mars Wrigley employs around 700 staff in regional facilities and Leakey says the company is working to attract talent to manufacturing roles through lifelong career progression, formalised development plans, the ability to move between business units and competitive pay packages. 

According to ABS data, more than 11,800 Australians have made the sea – or tree – change from metropolitan areas since March this year. 

The YouGov survey showed the main reasons Aussies are considering moving to regional locations are the cost of living (49 per cent), housing prices (48 per cent) and a change in lifestyle pace (45 per cent). 

However they have some hesitation: Around 40 per cent are concerned about a lack of infrastructure or entertainment, while about one third cite a lack of community, barriers to career growth and a lack of job prospects. 

Those in NSW (56 per cent) and Victoria (53 per cent) were the most likely to consider moving, reflecting the rising costs of living in greater Sydney or Melbourne. 

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