There may be more jobs available in Ballarat soon through an innovative state government program.
Working For Victoria, a job matching and wage subsidy program, will expand by 3000 places across the state, with a focus on community support agencies.
The Ballarat Neighbourhood Centre hosted three jobs from the first round of 8500 places - this allowed the centre to employ two workforce development consultants to help other out-of-work people find jobs, and a health and safety officer, who ensured the centre stayed open to provide its essential services.
The centre's executive officer, Vicki Coltman, said a long-term partnership with the state government's Jobs Victoria and the Brotherhood of St Lawrence was helpful, but the Working for Victoria program had enabled the centre to expand its offerings.
"(Working for Victoria) has allowed us to increase the number of advisors, which has helped take some of the pressure off the current staff, and created a situation where people can continue to come into the centre - as we know social isolation is going to have a huge impact on people's lives," she said.
State Employment Minister Jaala Pulford explained the program was about "matching" people who had found themselves out of work because of the pandemic with employers looking for candidates.
"There has been a surge in demand for critical services in so many different ways, so Working for Victoria is about matching people who need new work opportunities with areas of demand," she said.
"It's not something we've traditionally done as a state government, but it's being done really successfully at the moment in this environment."
The focus for this round is on community service organisations and multicultural agencies, including youth services in partnership with the Community and Public Sector Union, as well as dozens of councils.
In May, a number of people were employed through the City of Ballarat to clean surfaces on Sturt Street and around Lake Wendouree using the program.
While council will not be applying for roles in this round - a spokesperson said council has been able to utilise its own staff on alternative duties to work in different work areas to assist where service demand was or is high, like Meals on Wheels - there may be other opportunities across the city.
Two of the workers at the Neighbourhood Centre spoke about their experiences - Kitti Smith said she had been studying a cleaning course, and improving her English, when she lost her job in Creswick.
She's now a health and safety officer, with a six month contract.
"My teacher asked, next time we have a job for you, would you want to do it?" she said.
"I don't want to get money for free, I want to work, I want to improve my skills, and I'm so proud to work here - I can see many people, and speak English with them.
"I hope I can practice everything, and learn about COVID-19 so when I finish here, I can get another job."
Donna Tucker was about to finish her degree in Human and Community Services when the pandemic struck - her role as a workforce development consultant enabled her to get real-world experience before returning to the job market.
"Like a lot of women, I had a fairly significant career break to raise my kids - so I was about to walk out with a fresh degree and a 10 year gap in my resume," she said.
"This was a good chance to put a foot in the door and get some experience."
Applicants are encouraged to apply online, using the Sidekicker platform - Ms Tucker said it was easy to navigate with "a very quick turnaround".
Ms Coltman said the centre had been helping about 400 clients, with the number increasing as the pandemic crisis wore on.
"We know that women have been significantly impacted by job losses across Australia, and we're expecting to see a lot more when JobKeeper ends," she said.
"What we've seen is clients who may have had positions placed in the last 18 months have now lost those positions, so we keep those clients on our books and keep supporting them."
IN THE NEWS
The Brotherhood of St Lawrence was allocated 107 positions across the state in the previous round, and Ms Colman added she was hopeful they would be successful again.
"(The six month employment) is enough to get them employed and give them training," she said.
"We do not see this as six months and see you later, we see this as a six month career building opportunity."
For more information, or to apply as a worker or employer, visit the website.
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.