Through the Tasmanian Medicare Local Social Determinants of Health Program, Michael Higgins and Chris Devenish from the Geeveston Community Centre, known locally as GeCo, were able to identify many barriers that the local community face when it comes to gaining and holding on to employment. Some of those barriers include low socio-economic backgrounds, a family history of unemployment, a lack of industry specific training, and poor educational outcomes, with many facing literacy difficulties. As a way of addressing and overcoming these issues, GeCo came up with the idea of a locally owned service, run by local staff, to benefit the local community. This idea would come to be known as Huon Valley Works – Community Employment Hub.
Huon Valley Works – Community Employment Hub, is much more than its title suggests. Not only does this service provide a link between jobseekers and employers, and provide industry specific and general work readiness training, but it also provides important links towards community development.
Building connections between members of the community is invaluable for empowerment and self-determination, as well as helping to build a collective responsibility for the community. By increasing the number of jobseekers able to participate in training and work readiness, they are already increasing their social networks. Take those same jobseekers and place them into local employment, and that social network has again increased. It is well-researched, and something that was raised during the Social Determinants of Health Program, that social isolation, unemployment and socio-economic disadvantage leads to poorer health outcomes. By addressing these barriers in a holistic manner, and recognising that it is a combination of structural, individual and locational factors that contribute to unemployment, and therefore to poorer health outcomes, Huon Valley Works is providing something new and unique.
Many other agencies with a focus of placing jobseekers into the workforce are concerned more with numbers and meeting targets than they are the individual people and their communities. However, with GeCo being a member of Neighbour Houses Tasmania (NHT), there is already a strong connection and focus on building communities. It has been shown that when a community creates something together to directly benefit them and their community, they take ownership over that project and develop a sense of pride. Creating something that builds upon self-esteem, social determinacy, and increases social networks is one of the important factors of successful community development.
To ensure the best possible outcome and long term sustainability, Huon Valley Works, in conjunction with GeCo, have teamed up with a number of local employers who are wanting to hire local jobseekers – people who know and understand the area. With Huon Valley Works offering employers to jobseekers, jobseekers to employers, meeting training and work readiness requirements, as well as offering support, the team behind Huon Valley Works is confident they can meet the needs of both jobseekers and employers. By approaching the project in this manner, Huon Valley Works can keep things as local as possible to the Huon Valley. This will ensure that the community development aspect remains a high priority, and therefore ultimately, the local community benefits.
When it comes to meeting the demands of both jobseekers and employers, Huon Valley Works will also be working in conjunction with Job Active providers. This ensures a wider pool of jobseekers for local employers in the case where demand is higher than supply in the Huon Valley, whilst still providing jobseekers with employment.