• Transforming Geelong
19 February 2014 Jennifer Cromarty

Yet again Geelong has hit the headlines with sad news of another manufacturer closing its doors.

My brother did his electrical engineering cadetship at Alcoa and was there for 10 years. It provided an amazing opportunity for him to start his career by working and studying at the same time. Unfortunately with this closure, there are many who are talking down Geelong and its long term prospects. I wrote a blog back in June last year called "Dear Geelong, Don't Be Sad." All of my sentiments still ring true but now we need to act and embrace what our future can be.

I believe an opportunity exists for the Geelong community to re-skill with a focus on the digital age. For several years I have been providing strategic advice and developing approaches to leverage the disruption being wrought to industry by transformative technology i.e. the impact of online trade in the Australian retail sector.

Government is starting to actively embrace the economic transformative opportunities of broadband with the release of the Victorian Rural and Regional Parliamentary Committee report on its Inquiry into the Opportunities for People to Use Telecommuting and E-Business to work Remotely in Regional Rural Victoria.

There is equally a growing skill shortage and increasing demand for people with experience and training in digital strategies and social media applications. From small businesses needing simple advice and straightforward approaches to engaging online to more complex digital strategies across all industries, government and not-for-profit agencies -- the demand for skills in this area is growing.

Developing a digital capability skills program -- built and delivered by existing enterprise -- is a clear opportunity for the Geelong region. There are many local champions and local enterprises that could be engaged to drive the program targeting a cross generational audience.

Geelong should partner with the Federal and State Government to fund the development of a program modelled on, for example, the www.getuptospeed.com.au program funded by Skills Queensland as a starting point.

This vision -- led by the passionate Mayor of Geelong Darryn Lyons -- should be to place Geelong as the social media and digital strategy capital of Australia.

Through the skills program, a collaborative network of skilled individuals, ie the Geelong Social Media Army, could be the providers of support and advice to organisations locally and globally.

Creating a focus in Geelong as the "Social media capital of Australia" will also provide strong inducements for young people to remain in their local community (rather than move to metropolitan areas) and, in turn, encourage other young people to either return or move back to Geelong.

Encouraging people to be more 'digitally engaged' is an essential way to strengthen economies and take advantage of diverse social and economic benefits generated by new technologies.

OPTIONS FOR ACTION

Geelong should consider as a starting point:

  • Collaborating with businesses and creating social media training workshops to promote digital engagement and growth of a digitally skilled workforce;
  • Developing a network of local digital champions to support, host and mentor businesses (more information available);
  • Designating creative hubs or co-working spaces in Geelong that could become places to learn about digital engagement and drive information sharing (more information available); and
  • Identifying and engaging with local undergraduates studying fields within ICT / digital skills and social media to share their knowledge and skills sets with local enterprises.

State/Federal Government could consider:

  • Commissioning research into identifying the skills sets required to support and grow existing industries in Geelong and the economic productivity impacts that would be generated via building digital capabilities;
  • Funding the development and implementation of a digital skills training program for Geelong workers;
  • Supporting Geelong's vision to be the 'Social media capital of Australia' through directing aligned government initiatives to be managed and support via the Geelong workforce. For example, the Victorian Government's Digital Strategy.
  • Identifying and engaging with local undergraduates studying fields within ICT / digital skills and social media to share their knowledge and skills sets with local enterprises.