Friday, March 20, 2009

What is to be done?

Yesterday I was part of a group invited to attend the "Barriers to Employment in Corner Inlet Forum" which was run by my friends Linda Giddy and Dana Hughes. They've been asked by our local Shire Council to come up with a report with recommendations for tackling the systemic unemployment and poverty in our part of the Shire. It was an interesting exercise and after some pretty intensive brainstorming it seems we may be able to come up with something which can work for all of the different parties represented at the Forum.

We had a few educators, some Shire staff from Community Development and from the business side, some of the people who are on the South Gippsland Transport Connections Group with me, our newest Shire Councilor, Mohya Davies, one of our veteran local politicians, Cr. Jeanette Harding plus a couple of community interest group representatives and business people like me.

I've had this notion of having a business incubator in Foster for quite a few years and maybe its time has come. The problems as I see them for individuals trying to get going as self employed are (a) the capital needed for startup to cover rent is a great hurdle, (b) you're on your own and have (usually) no-one to talk to and mentor you, (c) it's hard to find premises in a location which gives your startup a chance.

Anyway it seemed during the discussion that a lot of our ideas were converging on something like my incubator and perhaps it was possible to make something similar not just in Foster but Toora (where there is the massive, empty dairy factory) and at Port Welshpool which needs help the most and where a couple of dynamic locals, Marzia Maurelli and Kerry Pinzone have some great ideas for using the now derelict long jetty.

For young people I think the step from school to real life has become too much of a gap. Many years of classroom schooling don't suit a lot of people anyway. I see these incubators as a way of providing a real life learning environment where knowledgeable people will easily find a concentrated body of willing students and where lots of informal interaction will make for even more efficient learning.

Foster is the retail hub so it makes sense to have a retail and service oriented incubator there. Toora could be the industrial and manufacturing incubator (I grew up living in a company house in the factory grounds and my Dad supervised construction of the place originally before becoming maintenance engineer and eventually manager and company director). I'm not sure what Marzia and Kerry have in mind for Port Welshpool but Marzia seemed to have a fairly clear idea of what's possible.

It's early days but I'm hopeful something really useful could come out of this and what makes me even more optimistic is that there is such a large number of people of goodwill out there who have a good grasp of reality, see the pitfalls of past approaches such as trying to attract big businesses to the area (what I call the Cargo Cult strategy) and also see that we must save ourselves because no-one else will.


Elizabeth Richardson said...

Nice to see that you guys are concerned about the unemployment and self employment challenges faced by many in our local communities.

My SELF EMPLOYMENT STORY - Personally, I haven't been in business properly for over ten years and much has changed since that time including the addition of starting another business was a little daunting despite the fact I had past experience.

SOLUTION FOR ME - I've just been part of the NEIS program, which is available to almost anyone receiving Centrelink benefits and registered with a 'job network member'.

The 6 week course provided me with updated material regarding taxation, business, accounting etc and gave me to skills to prepare a Business Plan which must be then approved by a committee before being accepted into the formal part of the NEIS program.

NEIS then provide us with income support for 12 months which is wonderful when you're just getting started again...but the best benefit of all for me was, I now have 2 business mentors who give me access to resources, brainstorming and have even referred me clients and sold some of my products (way beyond what their level of duty requires).

Did I happen to mention that this is all FREE.

Beside having something like $5000 income support for 12 months, the information I received during the training phase would be worth thousands in itself.

Anyway, just thought I'd include this as an option that some might like to consider.

All the best,


Lloyd Morcom said...

Hi Elizabeth

Glad you mentioned the NEIS program. I did it back in the early '90s and it taught me heaps, even though I'd been self-employed for over ten years at that stage. At least I went broke a little slower after that!

My wife did one for artists a few years later. There was talk of cutting the scheme at one stage, so I'm glad to hear it's still going. What I've got in mind is one step further on: that is support for people once their business is under way. But I always recommend the NEIS for anyone who can qualify for it — I found it invaluable.



clifford said...

Hi Lloyd
Heard you on Radio National and I would like more information on the scientific equipment and educational models that you make.

Lloyd Morcom said...

Hi Cliff

You can see a gallery of my projects here