In her mission to assist owners and workers of small businesses, Commerce Ballarat CEO Jodie Gillett is in immediate need of an able ally.
The leading independent business group in town, of which Ms Gillett is responsible, wants to take on a suitably-qualified individual to assist employers and employees develop skills which will aid their mental wellbeing.
"What we're after is someone to work in our office with us," Ms Gillett said.
"We're looking for a person who is going to be able to deliver services through to the end of June next year. There is a possibility the government will extend the funding.
"There will be some counselling for any business owner or staff member who requires it. The bulk of the job will be in building capacity. Things which we might do include dealing with difficult situations.
"They will (also) prepare material which supports businesses."
Clearly aware of the demands on businesses, Ms Gillett is committed to providing readily-available assistance.
"It's really important for us to make it as accessible as possible," Ms Gillett said.
"(We will be) doing workshops out of hours and having material they can access, absolutely free."
Assisting Ms Gillett in her search is Jen Murray from EACH, an organisation dedicated to providing health and support services.
Ms Murray is clear the suitable applicant will need to possess particular qualities.
"We are looking for a person who is confident to work with small business owners, their families, and staff on a confidential one-on-one basis to support them with mental health and wellbeing," Ms Murray said.
"The ideal candidate will also have the skills to deliver workshops, run online webinars, and engage with potential service users through social media.
"They will need to have some understanding of the complexities of running a small business."
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Ms Murray is in no doubt as to the importance of the role.
"The program has been funded by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," she said.
"It is recognised that the pandemic has had a great effect on small businesses."
Ms Gillett remains concerned for small business operators and staff.
"The stress that's been put back onto business owners is immense," Ms Gillett said.
"As we start the recovery, the fears I have are around the fact they're going to be so focused on rebuilding that they will not take the time to care for themselves."
The parochial advocate for the local economy believes the situation is only going to get worse.
"There's going to be such massive need for businesses to look after the mental health of their employees, the people who are having to check, 'Are you vaccinated? Can you come in? Can you work here?'
"(Aggression from customers) has been happening for a long time. It's already (getting worse).
"With the rules coming in around authorised workers, employers are already dealing with employees who are stressed. 'How do I manage the situation when I've got someone saying to me why they refuse to be vaccinated?'"
According to Ms Gillett, empathy is required across all sections of society.
"The majority of our community has been amazing. They've been kind to business; they've been supportive," she said.
"There is just that small element who have certain beliefs, and they're entitled to those, but they need to not deliberately create situations just to get their point across.
"Appreciate, whenever you go into a business, whatever they're asking you to do, they're just trying to follow the rules that have been set for them by government."
While there are some who might think the end of hard times is near, Ms Gillett feels otherwise.
"What tends to happen with the general public is once you're open, life goes back to normal," Ms Gillett said.
"Life's not going to go back to any type of normal for a lot of our business owners for a very long time.
"We need to be very conscious of supporting them with all the added stress they've got around the rules they have to follow, of dealing with ongoing capacity restrictions.
"Know there's a lot of people for whom this is not going to be done for a very long time, if ever."
Refer to Saturday's employment section for application advice.
Interested people are welcome to call Jen Murray (0448 917 753) to discuss the position.
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