Silas Masih reopened the restaurant floor of his winery on WA’s south coast yesterday after a tough period in which he struggled to find enough staff to operate.

Key points:

  • Regional areas are enduring serious labour shortages in a range of fields
  • Incentives are being planned to get Perth workers out of the city
  • The Opposition says more needs to be done to fix the “critical” shortage

He is urging young people in Perth struggling to find work to look outside the city.

“Get off your arse and come down and see us because it’s amazing,” Mr Masih said.

The head chef and owner of the Denmark restaurant, Pepper and Salt, said the staff shortage forced him to close and only offer takeaways.

“There’s been a lot of demand for us to open, but over the last three to four weeks we have put numerous ads out … just trying to recruit people from across WA. But it’s been really difficult,” he said.

“The last three days I’ve been averaging three to four hours sleep with trying to get the restaurant open.”

The restaurant was still having to limit booking numbers because of the staff shortage, but Mr Masih was hoping to attract more workers ahead of an expected busy summer period.

Pepper and Salt’s doors have reopened after an advertisement campaign to attract workers.(ABC News: Mark Bennett)

“If WA citizens keep coming through — and we hope they do — we will need a good capacity of staff to get us through that period,” he said.

“So yeah two or three chefs, front of house staff, kitchen hands, all welcome with open arms.

“The region is fantastic, the food, the wine, the beaches, the people. Why wouldn’t you want to come and work down here?”

‘Work and Wander out Yonder’ campaign launched

Mr Masih is not alone, with regional areas experiencing labour shortages in a range of jobs normally filled by international backpackers whose services have been lost to the sector as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.

Thousands of workers will be needed for the harvest season, the WA Government says.(Chris Lewis)

In response, the WA Government has announced the ‘Work and Wander out Yonder’ campaign to encourage thousands of young people in Perth to take up jobs in tourism, agriculture and hospitality.

“We’re focusing on school leavers, university students, people that are unemployed and even grey nomads who feel like they have a little bit of life left in them to get out there and do this constructive work,” Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said.

Ms MacTiernan said the WA Government was finalising an incentive scheme to provide accommodation and travel support for people moving to the regions for agricultural work.

She also called on the Federal Government to extend JobKeeper and JobSeeker for those workers as another motivator.

“We’ve got a big harvest coming up, we know that we will need upwards of 7,000 people across the grain and horticulture sector between the months of October to December to bring that product in for the state,” she said.

“We are hoping the Federal Government will come on board as well and provide some incentives by way of allowing people to maintain their JobKeeper payments while they are certainly seeing if this is the work for them.”

‘Safer to stay in the city’: Students split over idea

TAFE student Aife Bate said working in regional WA was not something she would consider, particularly since COVID-19.

TAFE student Aife Bate says she will not be looking for work in the country at the moment.(ABC News: Eliza Laschon)

“I have considered it in the past, that was before I started my pre-apprenticeship at TAFE when I just was doing hospitality work because I was kind of looking for anything and everything,” the 27-year-old said.

“It’s just a bit safer to stay in the city to look for work than actually travel to a job and not know where your next job is going to be and being out on your own.”

But 18-year-old TAFE student Luke Klumpp said he thought a lot of young people would be open to working in the regions for short periods.

“I love the country so absolutely I would definitely do that,” he said.

Luke Klumpp says he is definitely interested in working in the country for short periods.(ABC News: Eliza Laschon)

“For short little intervals it would be good, a bit of a holiday … if you could go after school or something do a few months up there during harvest season, help out at some farms, that would be great.”

WA’s Shadow Regional Development Minister Steve Thomas said the Government had known for some time there would be a critical labour shortage in regional areas and the campaign was “too little, too late”.

“This isn’t enough, no farmer in his right mind is going to put a visiting backpacker from Perth in his $750,000 header or his half-a-million dollar tractor and just send him out to the paddock,” he said.

“They need trained experienced staff on farms and we need to do more.”

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