Recruitment & Hiring

VET failures blamed as NSW caravan business struggles to fill 30 jobs

Dominic Powell /

A Sydney caravan manufacturing business is struggling to fill 30 trade-focused vacancies and experts say failures in the Vocational Education and Training system are to blame.

Avida Motorhomes and Caravans is based in Emu Plains, NSW, and is currently looking for workers across a number of roles, reports news.com.au.

Ben Binns, chief executive of Avida, says the business is seeking cabinetmakers, plumbers, machinists, CNC workers, upholsterers and electricians to work full time for the fast-growing company.

Avida was founded in 1965 and is one of Australia’s largest motorhome manufacturers. The business is even seeking unskilled labourers, with Binns telling news.com.au, “We will take anyone”.

“We are willing to invest time and energy in people as long as they have the right attitude,” Binns said.

The company has been targeting TAFEs, high schools and universities, but has still had no luck in its search for employees. Emu Plains is approximately 58 kilometres from the centre of Sydney, but Binns believes the location and transport is not the issue.

“It has not been easy to find people and I can’t say exactly why that is, because we are right on the train line, we are only a five-minute walk from Emu Plains station, so transport is not an issue,” he told news.com.au.

However, Council of Small Business Australia (COSBOA) chief executive Peter Strong believes the often-criticised VET system is to blame, telling SmartCompany situations like these “have got to be a wake-up call”.

In August, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) called for a national review of the VET sector, claiming, “Holistic VET policy has been sorely missing”.

At the time, Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Kate Carnell told SmartCompany: “The system needs to be performance-based, you’re training people for jobs so it should be based on people getting jobs”.

Strong agrees, saying the issue stems from a “disconnect between VET and employers, and the VET trainees and employers”.

“Workers are being trained, but they are being trained in the wrong things. The training sector has been focusing on what it wants to do, not what [the employers] want,” Strong says.

“In the end it is failing those who are seeking work, as you’re not going to get the job if you don’t have the skills the employer wants.”

Avida’s job openings are almost entirely trade-based, with many suited to apprenticeships. Workers often use the VET system as non-tertiary pathway towards a trades-focused career.

Strong agrees the business’s location is not the issue, claiming “the real centre of Sydney these days is Parramatta,” which is only 37 kilometres from Emu Plains.

Strong acknowledges businesses in remote locations can struggle to find workers who are willing to move, but believes local governments should provide aid.

“It used to be that governments would go to an area where there is a skills excess, and provide information and assistance on how to move to an area requiring workers,” Strong says.

“These days, it is largely up to the business to source workers, and it is a lot of money to pay for workers to move. The governments should give businesses some assistance, because if there is a benefit to the community, they should get involved.”

SmartCompany contacted Avida Motorhomes but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the former features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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