NEWLY-employed Daniel Munro has a bright future with work in Northern Rivers agriculture thanks to the North Coast Shared Labour Pool.

An initiative of the local cane, macadamia and tea tree industries and supported by Regional Development Australia, the Pool has helped develop a workforce to fill temporary agriculture labour needs at short notice.

Within a month of Mr Munro attending an information session about the project last November, he had scored a job on a Bangalow macadamia plantation and is still working there today.

His story is one of many successes to emerge from the initiative, which is helping to give skills to willing workers and connect them with potential employers.

Mr Munro attended a two-week TAFE course in November covering aspects of the tea tree, cane and macadamia industries, and two weeks ago started a course in harvesting.

Now his skills are in high demand.

For his employer, Andrew Starkey, the chairman of the Australian Macadamia Society, the Pool has been a godsend.

When Mr Starkey needed labourers urgently, he simply made a call and within a week his vacancies were filled. And, with their experience and training, he was able to deploy them into the orchard straight away.

"It was a phone call with a definite result pretty much immediately, versus a whole stack of applicants that needed sorting," Mr Starkey said.

"A lot of these guys have been employed to clean up the mess from the recent storms… dragging out trees, feeding chippers, staking up young trees… there's plenty of work to do.

"The real benefit was the surety of the skill level we were bringing into play."

Pool administrator Aliison Kelly said the recent weather had been bad news for the macadamia industry but there was a silver lining - farms were crying out for more workers. "It's been really hard for the macadamia farmers.

"But it proves that the Pool is a very useful and needed project,'' he said.

"The workers all stepped up to the mark. With little experience they're all getting great results."

While most of the work is mostly casual, the Pool allows workers to shift between cane, maca and tea tree as harvest needs change, so they will hopefully always have work.

Due to its success, expansions are currently being discussed for the Tweed and Clarence regions.



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