Lifestyle key to growing Murray Bridge's workforce, employers say at Make It Yours workshop

Lifestyle is what will attract the workers of the future and keep young locals around, Murray Bridge's business leaders say.

Representatives of about 20 major employers met at Monarto Zoo on Wednesday to tackle the challenges they anticipated over the next few years.

Many - including in food processing, hospitality and retail - said their main worry was that they would not find enough workers to fill jobs.

Only growing Murray Bridge's reputation as a desirable place to live and work, in the style of the local council's current "Make It Yours" campaign, would meet that need, they suggested.

Murray Bridge had plenty to boast about, they said: the river, inexpensive houses on large blocks, proximity to Adelaide, good schools and a hospital.

People just needed to know about it.

"From afar, Murray Bridge, people think the place is buzzing," one business owner said.

"You might not sense it up close, but The Bend, the racecourse, the Thomas Foods rebuild - that's a community that has developed some resilience, rather than saying 'woe is us' and 'you don't know how hard it is'."

Whether young people choose to study at university or move straight into the workforce, there were options available through the Murray River Study Hub; and in industries such as aged care, hospitality, disability and trades.

"Kids are brought up to think that they have to go to uni, so they leave the area," one business leader said.

"But there are courses and apprenticeships you can do in the region.

"They're good careers and you make good money."

Older people could also help fill the workforce gap, another noted.

Hundreds of people were moving to Murray Bridge each year as they approached retirement, he said; their experience, time and resources could be valuable.

With investment from the state or federal governments, the city's population of long-term unemployed workers could also fill jobs.

But at present, some employers said, too many were unwilling to work, or to submit to a drug test during a hiring process.

One business owner said he could not "take the risk" of employing someone who had been jobless for a long time, and would rather use migrant workers.

Mayor Brenton Lewis said he would continue to advocate for "local employment for local people", while also acknowledging how much hard-working migrants added to the community.

Feedback gathered at Wednesday's meeting will help shape a Murray Bridge council economic development strategy, which will sit alongside its strategic plan for the next four years.

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