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    Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness

Opening doors, minds to Wimmera careers

By Abby Walter

A Wimmera development leader has highlighted the breadth of career and training opportunities for locals and people returning to the Wimmera.

Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness said there were bigger opportunities in the Wimmera than people realised and far more jobs than people knew about.

“Take agriculture, as the biggest employer in the region, for example. Most people think when you talk about agriculture it just means farming,” he said.

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“There are so many jobs and skills required to allow a farmer to work these days and there are unlimited opportunities – from agronomy, financial advice, digital and technology, diesel mechanic, grain handling and research and development.

“We have a major employer with Agriculture Victoria that is offering all sorts of careers in the research and development space.

“I’ve barely scratched the surface and I can think of 25 more careers that agriculture in our region is crying out for, and all industries are the same in that need.”

Job seekers and school leavers will have the opportunity to explore some of the many career pathways available across the Wimmera at the upcoming Western Victorian Careers Expo.

The event, on June 21 at the Wimmera Events Centre at Longerenong, will feature education and industry exhibitors, available to speak to attendees about the pathways people can take to get into any career they want to pursue. 

Mr Sounness said choosing a career path was about building on skills and finding jobs of interest.

“Your passion might not be the first job you try, but have a go at a couple of jobs, and start to understand what working is about,” he said.

“If you’re in a role and there’s something that excites you more, don’t be afraid to try it.

“When you’re leaving school through your teenage years and your twenties you might have five or six different jobs as you try to work out what you’re interested in.”

“It’s a matter of getting those skills up, so doing your trade, a certificate or a degree, hopefully in the region, but sometimes it has to be away, and both have their advantages,” Mr Souness said.

“It’s about getting in and having a go and enjoying yourself.”

Mr Sounness said metropolitan career opportunities remained attractive for regional school leavers, which was a challenge when retaining people in the Wimmera.

“When starting a career, the ‘social life and bright lights’, along with being with a cohort of similar people, is appealing,” he said.

“I think one thing that will change is educational opportunities in the region and people will be able to get whatever qualification they want and get the opportunity to experience life the way they want to.”

Mr Sounness said a trap when people moved to larger centres for education or to kick-start their career was social and work circles had a tendency to keep people in the urban areas ongoing. 

“It can be more attractive to congregate with like-minded people of a similar age, and once you start congregating in a certain place, you tend to get comfortable living there and find jobs near there,” he said.

“Sometimes not having the training or educational opportunities in the Wimmera means young people go off to find other opportunities and then the people who are left behind feel that they’ve lost friends and then they start wanting to move, too.”

Mr Sounness said he believed developments in the Wimmera-southern Mallee during the next five years would be exciting.

“There’s going to be a lot of opportunities for people who invest their time in the region to get ahead and set-up their careers to what they want to be,” he said.

“I think that’s the benefit of working in a region like the Wimmera-southern Mallee. When you’re starting your career, you get the chance to take on a lot of responsibility early and develop skills. I think that’s something that people don’t consider; you can give your career a kick-start by starting in a rural location.”

• See the Western Victorian Careers Expo feature inside today’s edition for more information.