Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

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Case Study: Give Where You Live

ProjectGrow Our Own: Colac collaboration and capacity for our local workforce




Rural and regional Victoria Using a partnership approach to develop workforce resilience and potential in Colac
Building organisational capacity Building local employers’ capacity for inclusive employment to better support their employees and ensure they can recruit and retain staff in the region
Collaboration and partnership Local employer groups including various State Government departments, Colac Area Health, Colac Otway Shire, Bulla, AKD, Australian Lamb Colac, Barwon Child Youth and Family, Diversitat, Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, Findex and CMTP

Building employer capacity to attract and retain a local workforce

Local employers in the Colac region frequently report difficulty in recruiting and retaining a local workforce. At the same time, there are job seekers in the region experiencing significant barriers to getting and keeping a job. This project proposes a collaborative approach with Colac employers to understand what skills are needed, build training pathways to fill vacancies, and support inclusive environments for sustainable employment.

Image Participants at the Colac Jobs Fair, helping locals to build careers in Colac. L-R: Sue Luke, Liz Everist and Rachael Marshall. Photo: Duane Chilcott Photography.

‘Grow Our Own’ sees the creation of the Colac Workforce Development Network, a collaboration of key local employers and organisations to support practical responses for the attraction and retention of a local labour force. The project is part of the G21 Region Opportunities for Work (GROW), a unique collective impact initiative supported by Give Where You Live Foundation and G21 Geelong Region Alliance, that is working with local businesses to support social procurement and employment pathways for long term job seekers in the Geelong region.


  • With support from a facilitator, the Network aims to build its understanding of the key skills required for entry level roles, and the needs of local business to support training and development of current and future staff over the next 3-5 years, using an evidence-based approach.
  • The Network has identified five cohorts within the Colac region that experience particular issues and barriers to engagement in the labour market:
    • Young people transitioning into the labour market, particularly full-time employment
    • Women;
    • Long-term unemployed and/or those intermittently employed;
    • Retention of older people in the workforce; and
    • New residents in Colac.
  • The key outcome is an ongoing Community of Practice that will support improved organisational and human resources practice by local employers in the region to ensure an inclusive, supportive and diverse workforce that supports long-term job seekers into sustainable employment.
  • As part of the broader GROW collective impact initiative, the Colac project will be able to share tools, resources and learnings more widely across 135 GROW compact signatories in the G21 region.



"The Colac Workforce Development Network has the support of the major employers in the Shire and Council, and the identified Actions will provide assistance for people to enter or re-enter the workforce, which will be a huge benefit for the region." Gary Warrener, Manager Economic Development & Tourism, Colac Otway Shire.