The Transformative Impact of the Community Connector Program in Greater Shepparton

Community Connector Program Greater Shepparton

The overarching aim in establishing the Community Connector Program is to see individuals choosing to stay and becoming long-term residents and productive employees of Greater Shepparton – Fiona Le Glassick, CEO, Greater Shepparton City Council 

Situation Overview: 

In Jan 2021 the Community Connector Program (CCP) was launched in Greater Shepparton spearheaded by a collaboration between the Greater Shepparton City Council (as part of its ‘Great Things Happen Here‘ campaign) and the Committee for Greater Shepparton (as part of its ‘Grow Greater Shepparton‘ campaign) to address critical skilled workforce challenges in the Shepparton region. The Greater Shepparton CCP is focused on providing comprehensive support to new-to-area skilled workers and their families, facilitating their relocation and integration into the community.  

The Attract Connect Stay Team, under the leadership of Dr. Cosgrave, was actively involved from January 2021 to June 2022 in supporting the Shepparton CCP team to establish their CCP.  

The ACS Team supported the Shepparton CCP team to establish evidence-based, place-informed, strategies to support the successful settlement, social connection of new-to-area skilled workers and their families to the region.  

The Attract Connect Stay team’s role included designing a comprehensive Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to efficiently manage and analyse interactions with new-to-area skilled workers (and their partners), local businesses, and community stakeholders. The primary objectives of the CRM were to: streamline the CCP’s operational processes, foster consistent engagement with clients and local businesses, and track the effectiveness of the CCP’s strategies. Additionally, the Attract Connect Stay Team identified robust measures to demonstrate the program’s impact, conducted two evaluations to augment the CCP’s impact and efficacy and make strategic recommendations for continuous improvement.

The Challenge: 

  • Workforce Instability: Highly skilled workers were difficult to attract and retain in the region, leading to a continuous cycle of recruitment and attrition that strained local industries and in the healthcare and social care sectors local services. 
  • Integration and Connection Deficit: New-to-area skilled workers lacked comprehensive support for personal and professional integration, contributing to a high turnover rate. 

The Solution – Attract Connect Stay in Action: 

  • Evidence informed: Dr Cosgrave’s rural health workforce strengthening research and her evidenced-based Attract Connect Stay Framework underpinned the development of the Shepparton CCP by implementing proven solutions to address the personal and professional needs of new-to-area skilled workers. 

If people moving to a new region are not deeply connected within twelve months of relocating they will move within two years if not earlier. Dr Cath Cosgrave 

Tailored strategies: The ACS team led the creation of place-based, tailored strategies to support the successful settlement, social connection and of new-to-area skilled workers and their families to the Shepparton region examples of these tailored strategies include:  

  • Promotional Marketing and Advertising Campaigns: Targeted programmatic advertising focused on select professional audiences such as teachers, engineers, healthcare workers, and accountants to increase awareness of employment and lifestyle opportunities in Greater Shepparton. 
  • Comprehensive Web Presence and Digital Resources: Development of the CCP webpage and a business landing page on the Council’s ‘Great Things Happen Here’ website to facilitate easy access to information and resources for new-to-area skilled workers and local businesses. 
  • Engagement in Career Expos and International Recruitment
  • Participation in events like the UK Industry Career Expo and international medical, nursing, and allied health careers expo to attract overseas qualified health professionals. 

Fiona (the Community Connector) sat in many virtual sessions with us speaking with candidates promoting the CCP and the Shepparton lifestyle. – Local health service stakeholder 

  • Development of an Alumni Strategy for Local Education Professionals: Facilitating a strategy to reconnect former residents who are professionals or highly skilled workers to attract them back the region, enhancing the local talent pool. 
  • Establishment of a Permanent Resident Employment Program (PREP): Coordination with local stakeholders to address workforce issues in sectors like engineering, demonstrating a targeted approach to local industry needs. 

Thinking about my role, those projects—the alumni strategy and the PREP program, these wouldn’t have come to Shepparton without me having that time on the ground for me to do that research behind the scenes and get the right people involved. -Bim Rutherford, Community Connector, Greater Shepparton  

  • Support for Partner Employment: Strengthening support to help partners of new-to-area skilled workers find suitable employment, contributing to family stability and community integration. 
  • Provision of Settle Services and Resources: Offering a range of settle services including housing support, social connection facilitation, schooling and childcare assistance, and partner employment support, covering a broad spectrum of integration needs. 

The Community Connector Program has [so far] supported 121 new hires to GV Health who have relocated to our region from either intrastate, interstate or internationally. It is a vital service (…) supporting GV Health’s workforce attraction and retention strategies.– GV Health representative 

  • Development of Attract Connect Stay Resources for local businesses: Creating tools and online learning modules to assist local businesses in attracting, recruiting, and retaining skilled workers, emphasising a strategic, place-informed approach. 

The challenge in finding experienced professionals locally had been exhausted. This program has given us the confidence in moving forward with employing these great candidates[from out of region] with the knowledge the support from the Community Connector Program is ongoing – Pental Products representative 

Facilitation of Social Connections: Establishing initiatives like the Shepp Newbies Facebook group and Captain’s Table dinners to foster social connections and community integration for new residents. 

Moving to a new town can be scary and overwhelming as you do not know anyone or know much about the place. The Community Connector Program has helped me meet new people (…) I am so glad I reached out as I have settled in well and made new friends. – CCP client 

CCP Results (for the period 1 Jan 2021 to 28 Feb 2023) (25 months): 

  • Significant Relocation and Settlement Support 428 new-to-area skilled workers (plus their family members) supported to relocate and settle into the Greater Shepparton area. Indicating significant demand for CCP services for skilled workers relocating to rural/regional towns.  
  • High Retention Rates: 7.7 out of 10 new-to-area skilled workers supported by CCP intending to stay > than 18 months. Estimated turnover savings of $1.2 m 
  • Successful Housing and Amenities Connection: 100% CCP program recipients found housing and were connected with professional services and amenities. 
  • Educational Integration Success: 95% of CCP program recipients secured suitable schooling for their children indicating effective educational integration. 
  • Employment for partners: 75% of partners secured employment contributing to family stability and community integration. 
  • Broader Engagement: The CCP engaged with 94 employers and over 45 community groups, demonstrating extensive network building and enhanced local cooperation. 

The Community Connector program was fabulous. I felt welcomed and as though I was being offered a whole new community experience that would have taken me years to establish alone.- CCP recipient.  

The Result/What Sets Attract Connect Stay Apart:  

The establishment of the CCP in Greater Shepparton stands as a testament to the importance of addressing place, role, and workplace in the successful transition of skilled workers to rural work and living. The program’s success in significantly reducing turnover rates and fostering community integration not only addressed immediate workforce challenges but also catalysed long-term economic and social benefits for the Greater Shepparton region. 

What stands out about the program [CCP] is it’s the missing link in what we assume happens when people move regionally…… That [the CCP] is really essential if we’re going to attract and hold on to skilled workers. It’s allowing for cross pollination across businesses to recognise actually there’s a universal gap here. That’s something we can work on collectively. – Local Business Stakeholder

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