A new study has revealed almost half of the region's jobs vacancies were unfilled in the past year due to skill shortages across key industries.
The Riverina Skill Study found 78 per cent of employers had difficulty filling vacancies, particularly in accommodation and food services, agriculture, forestry and fishing, health care and social assistance, manufacturing, and professional, science and technical services.
Ultimately, 48 per cent of job vacancies in the past 12 months were left unfilled, most commonly positions within farming, forestry and landscaping, engineering and transport, hospitality, health and ICT.
The study, commissioned by Charles Sturt University (CSU) and Regional Development Australia Riverina (RDA Riverina) in 2019, also indicates the region's skill shortage has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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At the study's launch at CSU on Tuesday morning, Wagga mayor Greg Conkey said the region's lack of workers was a "huge issue".
"We're in a city where we're planning to grow to 100,000-plus in the next 25 years, and a big issue we're going to have is employment," Councillor Conkey said.
Small businesses were reported to have faced greater difficulties than larger businesses, with a lack of qualifications, experience and appropriate technical abilities among the biggest problems addressed by Riverina employers.
With candidates also expressing an unwillingness to relocate to the regions or commit to long-term arrangements, the work shortage has increased stress upon available staff and mangers, and caused a decrease in productivity.
RDA Riverina chairperson Dianna Sommerville said that the lack of workers available to fill positions was evident, however the findings will help government, industry and the community tackle the skills shortage efficiently.
"Our workforce development strategy will cover three different pathways to solving this problem," Ms Sommerville said.
"The first of these is growing our own talent within our region, and building the jobs and skills of the future and for the youth of the future.
"[Secondly] internal migration and attraction to our region and the great livability that the Riverina provides.
"Finally, through immigration."
Member for Riverina Michael McCormack commended the report and said the skills shortage in the Riverina reflects what was a "nationwide" issue.
"The federal government has contributed $1.2 billion as far as apprenticeships and skills," Mr McCormack said.
"What this report does is identify where we need to upskill, where we need to get those key people in key areas, and gives us a pathway forward."
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