Many small rural communities with ageing populations and limited opportunities for young people are not attracting skilled workers, but have a flow of skilled people through the community as locums, seasonal workers or contractors. This project investigated the question: how can rural communities capture maximum benefit from professional and other highly skilled workers in the context of an increasingly mobile and transitory workforce? It found that rural communities derive a wide range of benefits from mobile skilled workers. Effectiveness of the integration process determines the nature and extent of mobile skilled worker contribution to the community. Community settings that encourage and support mobile skilled worker integration are identified in terms of culture, leadership and interactional infrastructure. These same settings also influence mobile skilled worker retention in rural communities.
Rural communities need to be proactive in matching worker and community characteristics, and this begins with the recruitment process. Mobile skilled workers need assistance and support to develop a primary social contract, and the process needs to be monitored. This is a community-wide responsibility and requires a coordinated, whole-of-community approach.
This is the first Australian study to explore how rural communities can capture the advantages from highly skilled mobile workers. Rural communities that make the most of the available pool of skills can increase resilience, identification and uptake of opportunities such as new enterprises, good practice in natural resource management, enhanced social and leisure opportunities, and the quality and range of local services.
The importance of this report is that it provides a broad range of strategies for rural communities wanting to know how to optimise the benefits they derive from mobile skilled workers, regardless of their location or rural industry base.