Karla Notman is the newly appointed Hunter Employment Facilitator tasked with helping the region’s jobless
Where were you raised?
I was born and raised in the Hunter, starting my schooling in Lake Macquarie before moving to Maitland. Coming from two hard-working, blue-collar families, my career has been influenced by their work ethic, and passion for connecting people.
What did you do after you finished high school?
I did my HSC at Maitland Grossmann High School then began studying graphic design. I quickly burnt out, after moving straight from high school to full-time study, so I took some time out to work. With the contact centre sector starting to grow in Newcastle, I transitioned out of retail and hospitality into a customer service role.
How did you come to work in recruitment?
I was always fascinated by the process of recruitment, even from the job-seeking side of the desk – the interviews, and the process of selecting someone that fits a set of outlined requirements and the culture of a business. I’ve always held the value of a great workplace, especially culture, in high regard. It is really rewarding to be able to work with businesses to fit those puzzle pieces together. So, when I joined not-for-profit Workskil Australia, I took pride in helping people move forward toward their goals, no matter how big or small. At Workskil, I quickly moved up the ranks from working with jobseekers to working with a local portfolio of employers and matching the right new employee with their vacant positions.
How is the labour market in the Hunter?
A large part of the Hunter’s story has been centred on the closure of BHP and the region’s ability to pivot and recover from being the Steel City. The pandemic has highlighted that the Hunter has a resilient labour market. We are also a region of opportunity. We are home to a world’s best university, and we are seeing great opportunities and innovation in defence, hydrogen, and renewables which in turn, provide opportunities for the people of the Hunter.
We’re seeing more women getting back to work. However, youth unemployment remains a focus area.
You are now Employment Facilitator in the Hunter. What is your remit?
My role as the Australian government-appointed Employment Facilitator is to deliver the Local Jobs Program, and to work with employers and other key local stakeholders to develop employment solutions locally in the Hunter, to help people back into work.
What is the youth unemployment rate in the Hunter and general jobless rate?
Our youth unemployment rate sits at 17 per cent compared with 13.4 per cent nationally. The unemployment rate is 6.6 per cent compared to 6.4 per cent nationally.
How has COVID-19 affected the Hunter job market?
The Hunter has not been immune from the negative impacts of the pandemic. We’ve seen job losses and hours cut across a number of service industries – particularly hospitality and tourism.
Which jobseekers are faring worst at the moment, and why?
Those people working in COVID-impacted industries such as hospitality which disproportionately impacts young people and women. As these industries remerge, we’re seeing more women getting back to work. However, youth unemployment remains a focus area.
What are the main problems in the jobs market at present?
According to National Skills Commission data, employers are reporting their key challenges to be a lack of suitable applicants, coupled with an increased focus on ‘soft skills’ such as communication, problem solving, and organisational skills. When we consider that data, coupled with the key focus on youth unemployment, there is a need to build pathways to provide experience and skill building opportunities, in addition to vocational education and training, to improve access to employment. It is difficult for young people to get those skills if they don’t get initial employment opportunities.
What sectors are emerging as green shoots?
The Hunter is now home to the Williamtown Special Activation Precinct, a great hub providing opportunity within aerospace, defence manufacturing, and related industries. Health and community services is a large employer, still growing. These sectors provide a diverse array of career options.
Your advice to jobseekers at present?
Some of the best advice I received was from one of my university lecturers who said, ‘Networking is the most powerful tool you can have’. Build a solid network of like-minded people who are in the industry you want to be in. Tell your family, friends, class mates, and sporting team members that you are searching for work. Also work on employability skills such as communication, problem solving, and initiative. These are skills that are more like muscles – you hone them over time. Join a sporting team or a group, or volunteer to develop these skills – they look great on your resume!
How is the Hunter Local Jobs and Skills Taskforce you chair helping the jobless?
The taskforce is made up of diverse industry leaders who bring their expertise and insight into their sector to help collaboratively build programs and opportunities for Hunter residents to move back into employment.