A second bite of the employment apple

Amid widespread job loss and uncertainty, a Victorian Government employment program matches the newly unemployed with the businesses who are suddenly busier than ever.

Redundancy came as a devastating blow to Melbourne’s Nick Hilliard, who was laid off in March as part of a business restructure designed to weather the impact of coronavirus.

Nick, who had worked as an operations manager for a wholesale company for six months, was already facing a significant challenge, after his partner, who works in the travel industry, lost most of her hours.

“My partner is working in a very limited capacity now, and I was going to lose a substantial amount if I couldn’t secure a job and secure it quickly. It was going to mean significant long-term financial hardship for us,” he said.

Nick hit the phones, “pretty much shaking every tree that I could find”, to find another job.

“I was cold calling everyone I could think of, registering my interest, and I lost track of the number of resumes I sent out.”

Nick also registered with the Sidekicker app, seeking employment through the Victorian Government’s $500 million Working for Victoria fund. The initiative is matching thousands of Victorians displaced by coronavirus with new jobs that support critical services and high-demand areas, a vital contribution to Victoria’s pandemic response.

After five weeks without work, he secured a new role as a logistics coordinator with not-for-profit SecondBite.

SecondBite rescues and redistributes fresh, nutritious food to over 1100 community food programs across Australia. It collects surplus fresh food donated by growers, retailers, distributors, caterers and from public events, and redistributes it to community food programs that support Australians in need, including critical food supplies for vulnerable Victorians.

“My new role supports the operations manager so should there be anything that affects his capacity to fulfil his normal role I’ll be in a position to immediately back him up to provide food security for the people SecondBite supports,” Nick said.

The Victorian Government has invested $2.9 million to enable SecondBite and FoodBank to employ 72 workers for six months to meet growing demand for their services. The new recruits include sorters, packers, warehouse assistants and drivers.

“SecondBite asked me about my background and realised I had the potential to take a greater support role with the organisation in such unknown times,” Nick said. “It was handled through Working for Victoria.”

The new role has made an “immense difference” to his family’s personal circumstances.

“It’s just not a great feeling to come home and tell your partner that the income you’re going to rely on to get through has gone, especially when few people are hiring and they’re getting inundated with millions of applications for the very few positions available,” Nick said.

“I feel very lucky. I’m genuinely grateful for the way things have panned out. My partner is doing the home-schooling with our daughter and I’m able to work and keep myself stimulated as well. From a mental health point of view, doing something productive is really important to me too, and now there is a purpose in each day.”

People legally allowed to work in Australia, including those who have lost their jobs due to coronavirus, can participate in Working for Victoria. Job-seekers, businesses seeking workers and people wishing to retrain for new roles can register at www.vic.gov.au/workingforvictoria