My hometown on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia is a beautiful place to live, with a laid back life style, friendly people, amazing beaches and seasonally double the population because of the influx of tourists.

What isn’t lovely about the Sunshine Coast is lack of employment opportunities if you are a professional attempting to live here.  The Sunshine Coast was a farming, fishing and seasonal sea side tourist destination when we first moved here.  It went through a faze of being one of the biggest suppliers of Fly-In-Fly-Out (FIFO) workers for the Coal Seam Gas Pipeline construction industry but that’s largely dried up.  Now the local council has gone on a massive construction project to redevelop the CBD to have more shops and small company office space.  Nice but the construction companies are only employing tradies (carpenters, bricklayers, concretes etc) on casual contracts not back end professionals like me. The other woooooo hooooooo isn’t it big and new and shinny is the new Hospital that has just opened, which we got told would create 1000s of local jobs.  Yeah Nope – 99% of the jobs in the new hospital went to “Internal transfers of existing Dept of Health staff” so very few “new jobs” got created and none of them require university educated employees.

Unfortunately our local council is incredibly short sighted in their future planning for this region.  They seem to have this notion that if you are a professional like me you might want to live here but you’ll be employed by one of the medium to large companies like Santos in Brisbane City (the capital of Queensland) which is only techically 1 hours south west of here and you’d be commuting every day.

NO WAY IN HELL with traffic it becomes about a 2 to 4 hour trip  each way every day, add in cost of petrol and parking in the city and it suddenly isn’t a financially viable option.  Oh but wait you could catch the train (anyone living in this region is now laughing so hard they probably snorted). Train services are quit frankly a disaster in Queensland. I would literally have drive 45 minutes to get to a train station, attempted to find a car park and catch a train at 05:00 (am) to maybe get into the office in Brisbane CBD by 09:00 (am). It would cost me $27 per day or $135 per week (not including petrol and parking) and I’d be praying my car was still there and still in one peace when I got back every day. Oh and just for fun you might rock up to find the trains have been cancelled and they might have provide a bus but probably only to the Cabulture station which is another 50min drive away. There’s a 99% chance your train will be late and the station will be unmanned so the toilets will be locked and the train won’t have a toilet so you could be looking at not being able to pee for close to 5 hours (that really large morning coffee doesn’t seem such a good idea anymore!)

For some reason the Sunshine Coast Council is focusing all its money and energy on Tourism, Hospitality and Retail with a short construction boom.  This is incredible stupid and very very very short sighted of them.  Tourism is in no way shape or form a reliable industry, a very classic example of this has just happened in Northern Queensland where Category 4 Cyclone Debbie has just gone through leaving a path of destruction in her wake.  BAD TIMING 99% of people who had booked their up and coming Easter Vacation in the region have either cancelled by choice or have had their booking cancelled because the place they were going to stay at is currently underwater or severely storm damaged and uninhabitable.

So all those people who worked in hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and so on are now unemployed.  It will take several years for the region to rebuild its tourist brand and there is a solid probability that in that time period more cyclones will come through and do the same thing. We here on the Sunshine Coast are not immune to mother natures wrath last night large chunks of the Sunshine Coast vanished underwater due to the tail end of Cyclone Debbie dumping over a months worth of rain in 24 hours on the region as she headed back out to sea and yes this can and will effect the upcoming Easter Tourist Influx.

Mother Nature isn’t the only factor that can create a server downturn in revenue for Tourism, Hospitality and Retail.  All it takes is a minor shift in the current world economic environment and Australia and the World could find themselves in an economic down turn or worse depression.  If money suddenly becomes tight because of job losses or reduction in shifts or hike in price of goods, services and mortgages the first thing people do is stop going on holiday, stop eating out and they stop spending money on things they don’t need.  As a consequence the three industries most effected are Tourism, Hospitality and Retail, who will all shed any casual staff to stay solvent, which then floods the already full unemployment pool with more people competing for less and less jobs.

Retail has another problem to factor in and that is consumers buying habits are shifting to online outlets rather than traditional store based shopping. Plus for companies it’s also economically cheaper to hire 15 office based people to do coding and none human contact based complaints resolution and a wear-house full of robots that can work 24/7 to run your online store than it is to pay shopping centre rent, pay store staff, pay internet/phone rentals, pay merchant fees on bank transactions and buy/store merchandise that may or may not sell. So Retail is not the BOOM industry it once was and as stores fight to stay solvent they inevitably hire less people and try hard to hire the 14 to 17 age group as their casual staff so they don’t have to pay them as much, which does nothing to reduce the rising adult unemployment rate.

So for someone like me who is highly educated and a walking encyclopaedia on Information Management Issues (Database Clean up, Document & Data Storage, Data/Document Management  Plans, Configuration Change Control etc) there is almost no employment options.  Normally I get hired on contract by places like Santos, Honeywell, Dept of Defence or Defence Contracting Firms to come in and figure out why they are getting bad reports from their systems, to clean up their systems, to map and write new processes for imputing data into their systems, design their data/document management system or write their Information Management Plan. Yeah here on the Sunshine Coast even the employment agencies like Hayes that I would normally get contracts through have no idea what it is I’m talking about when I explain what it is I’m a specialist in.  I then inevitably get put in the “Administration Jobs” category which here on the Sunshine Coast means you’re the receptionist, payroll data entry person and Girl Friday for  a company that might have 10 people working for it and 3 to 7 of those will be related to the owner.

As far as employers here on the Sunshine Coast are concerned I’m:

  • Unemployable because I have no experience in retail, tourism or hospitality
  • Unemployable because I nave no experience with MYOB
  • Unemployable because I’m not married to or genetically related to one of the owners family members
  • Unemployable because my Autism prevents me from doing Reception or Customer Relations jobs
  • Unemployable because I’m a threat as I have more qualifications than the entire staff combined including the owner and the book keeper and I might want to CHANGE how something is done
  • Unemployable because I’m not a mum with ZERO qualifications trying to go back to work because her kid is now at school and she’s no longer eligible for government assistance to be a stay at home mum
  • Unemployable because they want someone who’ll stay in the job for the next 40 years and they think I’ll dump and run at the first offer of a better job

What the Sunshine Coast Council should be doing is what the local municipalities did in the area that is chucked together to make Silicon Vally in the USA.  The local municipalities got together with Stanford University and came up with and economic strategy that included discount on land taxes and services for businesses that opened in the region who employed more than 100 people and a minimum of a quarter of those employees had to be local people.  Add to that a lovely coastal based living location (San Fransisco) and a ready supply of student and graduates from Stanford University, which rapidly became THE place to go if you wanted to work in the Technology Industries and you created the perfect location to move or open your Technology business.

People hear “Technology Industries” and think geeky programmers who wear glasses and mismatched clothes and only communicate via inter office chat software and yes there is people like that in the industry.  However there is also lawyers of every variety, financial experts of every kind, Medical experts, Fitness Optimisation Experts, Human Resource staff, Receptionists, Personal Assistance, Data Managers, Building Maintenance people and cleaners.  Then you have the mushroom effect of eateries near buy who have to employe staff, catering companies, transportation employees because parking is shit in Silicon Vally as well as retails shops like hair dresses plus domestic cleaners because people like me don’t want to spend their downtime cleaning their apartment, child care workers, teachers and so on and so forth.

Now it is time for me to go back to submitting job applications for jobs I won’t even make interview and might eventually get the performateed rejection email stating – “due to the large caliber of highly skilled applicants you have unfortunately been unsuccessful in progressing to the interview stage but we will keep your application on file for possible future positions” (yeah right and I’m really a unicorn that can pee glitter and shit cupcakes).

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