An innovative social enterprise at the Hunter’s newest town has provided work for several long-term jobseekers.
The Huntlee Academy creates employment opportunities for local disadvantaged people including Indigenous Australians, youth, mature-aged workers and those with a disability.
Established in 2014, it currently employs 19 local trainees across business units including site maintenance, fencing and landscaping at Huntlee.
The new town near Branxton is the biggest urban project in NSW, with 7500 homes planned.
Maitland men John Adams and Simon Hurn are among those who have found employment with the Huntlee Academy.
The pair were both out of work for quite some time.
Mr Adams, a mechanic, said he struggled to find work as an older jobseeker, but the Huntlee Academy welcomed him with “open arms” about two years ago.
Mr Hurn, a heavy vehicle driver, started with the academy about six months ago and said he is enjoying the variety of responsibilities he has been given.
“It’s good to be working again,” he said.
The academy expects its number of trainees to increase to about 30 within the next 12 months.
The Huntlee Academy is a registered charity, overseen by a community-driven board of directors.
The idea for the academy was conceived by Huntlee project consultant Keith Rogers in conjunction with developer LWP Property Group.
Mr Rogers said the academy has obvious benefits for the trainees, local employers and the wider community.
“For these trainees, the benefits are immediate and the impacts very much long-term as they receive support to ensure they are job ready and equipped to build on their position in the employment market,” he said.
“A variety of employers – both those associated with the building of Huntlee and those engaged in other activities in the area – will be able to partner with the Huntlee Academy to not only meet their labour demands but also fulfil an important social responsibility in the burgeoning new township by offering sustainable employment opportunities to a wide range of local residents.
“Without question, the Huntlee township will be a vehicle for building social capital in the local community via training and employment opportunities delivered by the Huntlee Academy.”
Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon officially launched the academy on Wednesday.
Mr Fitzgibbon commended LWP for the initiative, which he said could be adopted for similar projects across Australia.
“The Huntlee Academy is a new and innovative model for regional social development,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“It is already serving an important function in the local economy and having a major impact on the lives of the targeted disadvantaged employee groups.
“The Huntlee Academy’s operations will boost the development of the local economy, reduce welfare costs and deliver a sustainable model for job creation in the region.
“It is, beyond question, a philosophy which can and should be adapted for large-scale developments such as this throughout the nation.”
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