Transportation, a lack of work experience, and mental health issues have been identified as the top barriers to work in Ballarat, according to organisations involved in new economic development program GROW Ballarat.
The GROW Ballarat program is focused on building the local economy as a long-term solution to providing employment opportunities for target groups in the community.
Since Highlands LLEN launched the state government program, Project Manager Rob Croucher has been working to establish GROW Partners and GROW Members.
The long-term outcome is to install a set of behaviours as normal practice.Rob Croucher, GROW Ballarat
Partners will support the GROW Ballarat Program by delivering specialist skills, resources and expertise, while GROW members will commit to local procurement and inclusive employment.
"The long-term outcome is to install a set of behaviours as normal practice," Mr Croucher said.
"We want to make sure businesses wherever possible are sourcing their goods and services locally. We want to ensure when they are looking to employ people they are practicing inclusive employment. We want them to be connected with organisations that are already practicing social procurement."
GROW Ballarat has identified disengaged young people including young mums, mature-age female job seekers, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as priority groups for employment opportunities.
According to the GROW Ballarat Regional Action Plan 2019-2021, program leaders hope targeting employment outcomes for these groups will also contribute to a reduction in homelessness and place-based disadvantage in areas of Ballarat.
The 2016 Census survey identified 1500 young people or 11 per cent of the Ballarat population aged 15 to 24 were not engaged in education or employment, significantly higher than the Victorian average of 4.8 per cent.
Data also shows mature-age females are particularly vulnerable to socio-economic disadvantage, experiencing delayed retirement and homelessness.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has significantly higher unemployment rates than non-Indigenous Australians, earn lower household incomes and are more likely to receive a government pension or allowance as their main source of income, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows.
Mr Croucher said he would continue work to build GROW Ballarat's member base by promoting the wider benefits of local procurement and the employment of people from target groups.
"There are commercial and moral reasons for businesses to be involved in GROW Ballarat," he said.
Economic modelling shows even a small shift in the way the region buys its goods and services can generate significant investment and increased job opportunities in Ballarat, according to the GROW Ballarat Regional Action Plan.
"For example, a 1 per cent shift in spend from non-local to local contributes more than $85 million in economic value and creates an estimated 295 new jobs," the report states.
GROW Ballarat will host an event on September 18 for local suppliers to the construction industry about how they can be successful under the state government's social procurement framework.
Visit highlandsllen.org/employment/grow-ballarat/ for more information.