Are you struggling to maintain a consistent workforce or battling to find skilled workers? Whether you need to employ someone or you want to train an existing employee to do the job, there are a wide range of services and government-funded programs to help you and the Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network (QAWN) can help point you in the right direction.

QAWN is an industry-led rural jobs initiative funded by the Queensland Government. It consists of six agriculture workforce officers based with agriculture industry organisations including Growcom, Bowen Gumlu Growers Association, Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers, Mackay Canegrowers and Mareeba District Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, who are working in partnership with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) to help address agriculture’s labour and skill needs.

Our aim is to work with you to understand your workforce needs and to connect you with the most appropriate solution to help you grow your business. This could include information on the variety of available employment options and wage subsidies, connecting you with local recruitment and  training providers, and/ or providing an update on what funding opportunities are available to upskill your workers. Call DAF Customer Service on 13 25 23 to be connected to an agriculture workforce officer in your region.

Karen George (Southern Qld)
qawn_sqld@growcom.com.au
0408 135 003

Michelle Templin (South East Qld)
mtemplin@growcom.com.au
0400 231 949

Stephanie Denman (South Burnett)
Stephanie.Denman@daf.qld.gov.au
07 4182 1825

Kylie Jackson (Wide Bay Burnett)
kylie.jackson@bfvg.com.au
0488 533 801

Lorelle Stables (Central Qld)
lorelle_stables@canegrowers.com.au
0423 370 368

Julia Wheway (North Qld)
workforce@bowengumlugrowers.com.au
0427 009 929

Leanne Kruss (Far North Qld)
rwdo.mdfvga.fnq@gmail.com
0431 743 633

Get the right people for your business

Finding suitable workers when you need them can be difficult if your usual recruitment channels aren’t meeting your needs. The following are some of the employment options available to you.

Jobactive providers

Whether you are looking to employ a permanent, casual or temporary worker, jobactive providers are located nationwide and can help you find the right staff for your business at no cost to you.

Your local jobactive provider will work directly with you to find job-ready candidates that fit your business needs. They provide professional end-to-end recruitment services, including advertising, sourcing, shortlisting and interviewing candidates. They can also advise you on wage subsidies that may be available when you hire eligible young, mature-aged, long-term unemployed or indigenous job seekers, or any training incentives to which you may be entitled.

Download the Employer jobactive app from iTunes or Google Play. Alternatively, you can use the jobactive website to post job vacancies, search and contact job seekers.

Visit: www.jobsearch.gov.au/serviceproviders
Call: 13 17 15

Harvest Labour Services

Horticulture growers can get help finding workers at harvest time through the National Harvest Labour Service.

Visit: www.jobsearch.gov.au/ServiceProviders/Search
Call: 1800 062 332

Community Development Program

The Community Development Programme (CDP) helps businesses find staff in remote regions by providing employer incentive funding. You can use this funding as a wage subsidy or to cover additional training and supervision costs. You will be paid the incentive once a remote job seeker has been employed full time for 26 weeks and can receive up to $7500 (plus GST) for a full-time employee or up to $3750 (plus GST) for a part-time employee. The 26 weeks do not need to be consecutive. The worker can have a break of up to four weeks in each 13 week period. This could be due to short seasonal gaps or down time between work projects.

Visit: www.employment.gov.au/community-development-programme-cdp
Call: 13 62 68

Disability Employment Services

Disability Employment Services are a national network of organisations funded by the Australian Government that offer a range of free services to help you recruit and retain people with disability, injury or health condition. This includes recruitment advice, help with job design and ongoing support to ensure the person settles into the job and maintains their employment. They can also help you access wage subsidies and a range of other financial incentives to support workplace modifications and assistive technology among other things.

The JobAccess website contains employer success stories, information on job searching, adjusting a workplace, financial assistance and understanding workplace rights and responsibilities, as well as employer success stories, step-by-step guides and checklists on recruitment and more.

Visit: www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/disability-and-carers/programmes-services/disability-employment-services
Call: 1800 464 800

Australian Apprenticeships Program

There are a range of Australian and State Government financial incentives available for eligible employers to hire an apprentice or trainee. For example, under the Queensland Government’s School to Trade Pathway incentive you may be eligible for a $5000 bonus payment if you take on a school-based apprentice and then convert the apprenticeship to a full-time arrangement. As an added incentive, if you hire a new apprentice or trainee you will get a 25 per cent payroll tax rebate on the payroll tax of another worker.

Apprenticeships / traineeships combine time at work with training and are more flexible than ever – they can be full-time, part-time or school-based and training can be delivered either on or off the job, or both. Apprentices / trainees can be school students, a person re-entering the workforce or a mature adult simply wishing to change careers. If you don’t have enough work for an ongoing or full-time position, a Group Training Organisation can organise for you to share an apprentice / trainee with another business. The Australian Apprenticeship Support Network can advise you on incentives and help you manage the administration of apprenticeship arrangements, including the training contract, training plan approvals and completion arrangements.

Visit: www.australianapprenticeships.gov.au/find-my-aasn/full-list
Call: 13 38 73

Visit: www.training.qld.gov.au/apprentices/incentives
Call: 1300 300 734

Advance Queensland Knowledge Transfer Program

If you are an owner of a small to medium enterprise (SME) and are keen to drive new ideas within your business but don’t have the time, technical capabilities or capacity then the State Government’s Advance Queensland Knowledge Transfer Partnerships program could be of benefit. Under this program SMEs can partner with universities to apply for grants of up to $50 000 to subsidise the hiring of a graduate to work on a strategic innovation project.

Visit: www.qld.gov.au/advanceqld
Call: 13 74 68

Internships

Internship programs provide a great opportunity for you to access young professionals who have acquired the latest skills learned through university disciplines including agribusiness, agriculture, engineering and technology and who can provide an extra pair of hands on farm, strategic support and fresh, innovative ideas at little or no cost to your business. For many employers the appeal of an intern program is the fact that it enables you to “test-drive” local talent and snap up the best students before your competitors do. For others it is the opportunity to potentially gain a competitive advantage in the global marketplace by hiring an international intern that could build valuable bridges in the country of their origin. The duration of the internship is negotiated with the host employer. Generally, students are available to work between four to 52 weeks, with a maximum of 40 hours per week. Universities can be contacted directly for information on their internship program or you can call Australian Internships (AI), which has strategic partnerships with a number of Australian universities to deliver internship programs.

Visit: www.internships.com.au
Call: 1800 GO INTERN (1800 46 468376)

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s website provides useful information for employers about:

  • Sponsoring and employing skilled workers from overseas
  • Labour agreements for recruitment
  • Employing legal workers
  • Checking a person’s visa entitlements
  • Working with migrants and refugees
  • Skilled migration events

Visit: www.border.gov.au/Trav/Work/Empl

Working Holiday Maker Program

Backpackers with a Working Holiday visa (417) or a Work and Holiday visa (462) are a popular source of labour when local employees cannot be accessed. These visa holders can work for up to six months with any one employer, with a 12-month visa extension available for those who work three months or more in a regional area. It is essential that you check that the foreign worker is legally allowed to work. The best way to quickly and easily do this is via a VEVO check (Visa Entitlement Verification Online). The service is free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As VEVO does not confirm a person’s identity you will need to sight identification documents and make sure these match the VEVO details. Any employer who is found to have employed, referred or contracted a foreign national who does not have permission to work or is in breach of their visa conditions (an illegal worker) could face penalties of up to $3240 to $108 000 per illegal worker. If you use a contractor or labour supplier to source your workers you should specify that the supply of labour must include only legal workers. Commonwealth workplace laws, including the payment of minimum rates of pay and conditions under awards and agreements, are enforced by the Fair Work Ombudsman. To check the minimum pay and conditions visit: www.fairwork.gov.au/awards-and-agreements.

The following are just some of the many websites where you can post free adverts to access working holiday makers:

Harvest Trail: www.jobsearch.gov.au/job/search/harvest
Travellers at Work: www.taw.com.au
Workstay: www.workstay.com.au
Gumtree: www.gumtree.com.au
Working Hostels Australia: www.workinghostelsaustralia.com.au/about

Visa Information Line: 13 18 81
Fair Work Ombudsman Infoline: 13 13 94 

Refugees and migrants

Anyone with a Refugee visa (200) is allowed to work and live in Australia as a permanent resident. Most refugees bring with them strengths gained from surviving difficult situations and have a strong desire to work and to build a new life for themselves and their families. There are a number of non-profit organisations that that specialise in assisting employers to link with refugee and migrant jobseekers, such as Multicultural Development Association (MDA).

Visit: http://mdaltd.org.au/mda-workforce-solutions
Call: 07 3337 5400

Sponsoring a worker on a temporary basis

The Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (457) is a useful option when you want to retain an overseas worker beyond their existing one year holiday visa (417 / 462). Under this visa program, employers can sponsor an overseas worker for up to four years if the occupation is deemed by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to be in demand and you cannot find an Australian citizen or permanent resident to do the skilled work. The worker can be in or outside Australiawhen lodging their application.

Visit: www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa-1/457-

Sponsoring a worker on a permanent basis

You can sponsor a skilled worker for permanent migration through the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa (187) if you have a genuine need to fill a skilled position that is full time and ongoing for at least two years. You would use this visa to retain a 457 visa holder as long as they have worked for you for at least two years before the application is lodged.

Visit: www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa-1/187-
Call: 131 881

The Australian Government’s Employer Hub provides information for employers looking to bring skilled workers to Australia when they cannot find an appropriately skilled Australians. It also contains information on how to employ workers from outside Australia and what visa options are available.

Visit: www.border.gov.au/Busi/Empl/Empl

Seasonal Worker Programme

The Seasonal Worker Programme offers a returning workforce for agricultural employers who can’t meet their labour needs with local jobseekers. You can either apply to the Australian Government to be an approved employer or you can source workers from a labour hire company who is an approved employer. Workers can be recruited from the following participating countries: Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Seasonal workers can be employed for up to six months, while seasonal workers from Kiribati, Nauru or Tuvalu who can be employed for up to nine months. Approved employers are responsible for providing briefings to seasonal workers on arrival and departure; providing seasonal workers a minimum average of 30 hours per week; paying for the full cost of each seasonal workers’ return international airfare and domestic transfer arrangements up front, and recouping any amount over $500 from the seasonal worker’s pay over the course of their employment; organising accommodation and transport to and from work for each seasonal worker (at the seasonal workers’ expense) and providing pastoral care for workers, including opportunities for recreation and religious observance, a 24 hour contact number, and assisting workers to access services in the local community.

Visit: www.employment.gov.au/seasonal-worker-programme
Call: 02 6240 5234

Online search for overseas skilled workers

SkillSelect is an Australian Government online service that can help you to search for potential overseas workers who have registered their interest in working in Australia and have the essential skills needed to fill a particular skill shortage. You will be able to view details of skilled workers and then make contact with them to discuss sponsorship and employment.

Visit: www.border.gov.au/Busi/Empl/skillselect
Call: 131 881

The following wage subsidies are available if you employ:

  1. a job seeker 50 years or over: up to $10 000 (GST inclusive) through the Restart programme
  2. a job seeker under 30 years of age: up to $6500 (GST inclusive) through the Youth Wage Subsidy
  3. a job seeker who is a parent: up to $6500 (GST inclusive) through the Parents Wage Subsidy
  4. a long-term unemployed job seeker (12 months) and an Indigenous job seeker (six months): up to $6500 (GST inclusive) through the Long Term Unemployed and Indigenous Wage Subsidy

To apply for a wage subsidy, contact a local jobactive or Disability Employment Services or Community Development Programme provider. You can find your local provider through the provider search on the jobactive website.

Visit: www.employment.gov.au/wage-subsidies
Call: 13 17 15

Many employers want a good quality worker who is available every season and can potentially take on a supervisory role but are concerned that they don’t have enough work to keep them on in a full time, permanent role and the cost to employ them on this basis.

Conversely, potential employees generally want a permanent role with a regular income rather than a casual role with irregular income. During the off peak season the significantly reduced hours of work and income is insufficient to sustain their household, so while they like the idea of working on a farm it is not a financially viable option.

While it may seem like a unworkable situation there may be a potential solution. Find out how taking on a permanent employee may be easier and more cost effective than you think.

See Factsheets below for more information on taking on a new employee:

  1. Individual Flexibility Agreement (IFA) Factcheet
  2. PaTH Factsheet