When Ronald Soe settled in Ballarat earlier this year, he was pleasantly surprised at the seamless transition of shifting from a capital city to a regional postcode.
"When I moved here in February I explored during the weekends and found there was plenty to do and see," said Ronald, listing tourist destinations, Lake Wendouree, hiking and shopping among his highlights, together with a food scene that's "on par with Melbourne".
"You've got everything you need here," said the new Ballafornian.
After working as an engineer in Adelaide for two years, Ronald is now a Supply Excellence Technician at Mars Wrigley.
He works within the performance metrics of the company's factory, handling technical data, managing projects and planning for new product launches.
Part of a tight-knit community at Mars Wrigley, Ronald's experience bolsters a recent study by his employer which reveals three in four Australians are open to new career opportunities in regional centres due to the impacts of COVID-19.
The study surveyed 1000 Australians currently working or studying in manufacturing, trade, or STEM careers, and found the desire to shift towards a regional lifestyle was most prevalent among young Australians, with Millennials (79 per cent) and Gen Z (72 per cent).
The findings come as the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that more than 11,8001 Australians have made a sea or tree change from metropolitan areas since March 2021.
"The pandemic has acted as a circuit breaker for young talents' future lifestyle decisions," said futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson.
"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.
"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."
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the top reasons Aussies are considering a regional move was attributed to the cost of living (49 per cent), housing prices (48 per cent) and change in lifestyle pace (45 per cent).
Indeed, Ronald has found such aspects of life in Ballarat to be very convenient.
"There's less traffic and housing, it's very affordable compared to the big cities," he said. "I would definitely recommend regions like this close to bigger cities, in terms of location, affordability, traffic and convenience."
Mars Wrigley general manager Andrew Leakey called on industry and governments to consider new ways to attract and retain talent to regional and outer city hubs such as Ballarat.
"This data confirms that there is a strong appetite from younger Australians, particularly Millennials and Gen Z, to make the move out of metropolitan areas," he said.
"However, despite the interest, there's an opportunity for regional communities 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 it's proving to be one of the most difficult to recruit for.
"At Mars Wrigley, we're determined to collaborate with industry and governments to reimagine 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."