Look at the Harvest Trail website and the callout from growers is clear: ‘Positions available’, ‘Workers needed ASAP’, ‘Urgent’. The backpacker labour force to harvest regions has been depleted due to Australian border closures. So when MADEC Australia, a Harvest Trail Services (HTS) provider in the Shepparton region asked Jobfind in Melbourne to help them meet employer demand for workers, the answer was ‘Yes!’
Tyrell Gilligan is MADEC HTS’ regional Harvest Office Manager and was delighted to receive Jobfind’s prompt response. “They quickly said ‘We can help, we’re going to help’,” recalls Tyrell.
Jobfind General Manager, Chelsie Hyland, immediately knew there would be interest from her jobactive participants across metropolitan Melbourne: “We have job seekers who are ready to work. They have transferable skills, and we can help them upskill with forklift licences if needed. Harvest work is a great start for city job seekers who want to build a career in agriculture.”
Matching job seekers to suitable Harvest Trail work
Soumyajit Mitra is Jobfind’s Project Manager and was quick to offer Jobfind’s Melburnian job seekers the earn-and-learn experience in Shepparton: “We invited all of our participants—thousands of them—to consider working in the agricultural sector. We ended up with a huge response and within two weeks MADEC Harvest Trail Services had job matched dozens of suitable candidates to the available work, including people who had never previously considered the agricultural sector or working in a regional area.”
An important part of the recruitment process was to invite interested job seekers to online information sessions with MADEC HTS’s on-the-ground representatives who know the workplaces well and can talk through the realities of the available roles.
Tyrell says: “It’s important to us that we connect the right workers with the right job and employer. We take the time to explain the requirements of each job, what to expect on the farm or in the warehouse, and common barriers that may be experienced.
“We want to empower potential harvest workers to make the right decisions for their circumstances,” explains Tyrell, whose commitment extends to referring job seekers to reputable and safe workplaces in line with Fair Work legislation.
Tyrell adds: “Our employers are providing ethically sourced produce and that extends to making sure their workforce is protected by their rights to work.”
That’s why recruiting from the jobactive pool of job seekers makes good sense.
“We know our job seekers’ eligibility to work, their skills and suitability,” explains Soumyajit.
Support to overcome barriers to joining the Harvest Trail
Both the jobactive service provider (such as Jobfind) and the Harvest Trail Service provider can combine resources to help each participant overcome individual barriers to joining the Harvest Trail.
For example, Jobfind can access the Australian Government’s Employment Fund to support participants with practical help such as petrol or transport vouchers to reach their regional destination. As a Harvest Trail Services provider, MADEC can help to find accommodation and transport and can utilise Australian Government initiatives such as AgMove to help reimburse costs of up to $6,000 for eligible people who temporarily relocate more than 90 mins to take up harvest work (details apply).
“After placement, we continue to offer advice and care to our participants so they are supported to thrive in their jobs,” says Soumyajit.
And there’s support for employers considering hiring long-term employees, too. Jobfind, for example, can deliver Australian Government wage subsidies to help employers hire a new employee and receive payments over six months (eligibility criteria apply).
This is great news for growers looking to upskill and retain harvest workers as long-term supervisors and managers, says Tyrell. “Someone might start as a picker, show a good work ethic and prove their potential – they can build a rewarding career in harvest work.”
Job satisfaction with Harvest Trail and off income support
Clare*, 52 years, from Frankston in Melbourne was out of work following the loss of her office job. Highly motivated to move off income support and enjoy a work routine again, she was the first of Jobfind’s candidates on the ground in Shepparton, starting work in early January 2022.
“When I arrived, I discovered a great shortfall in resources required to pick, grade and pack seasonal and year-round fruit produce to meet production goals. The work is simple though challenging for short periods when the grading and sorting machines are working hard. It’s a great opportunity to get more active!” says Clare.
With plenty of hours available to work, Clare is happy to have the income to help with living expenses in Melbourne and “the satisfaction of a solid day’s work.”
Another eager starter, James* is in his mid-twenties and has also settled well into this new field of work. “He has a good work ethic,” say, Tyrell, who was able to offer James a flexible start due to a family emergency. “In fact, we have a safety video and onsite induction every day, so we can safely welcome new starters onto the job all the time.”
Interested in Harvest Trail work?
Harvest work extends throughout the year as produce hits its peak harvest season. For example, Clare and James are involved in apple and pear picking in the Shepparton region throughout the Australian summer. The citrus pruning and picking work starts in Cobram in Autumn and can continue for six months.
Clare’s advice? “It’s work that is ready and available now, and with the right attitude and approach, you’ll make a success of it. I believe the work will lead me onto better things.”
Melbourne job seekers interested in Harvest Trail work can contact Soumyajit Mitra at [email protected]
*name changed for privacy