Mobile skilled workers: making the most of an untapped rural community resource

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Publication details

Kilpatrick, S, Johns, S, Vitartas, P & Homisan, M 2011, 'Mobile skilled workers: making the most of an untapped rural community resource', Journal of Rural Studies, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 181-190.

Publisher's version of this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2011.01.003

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Many small rural communities have a flow of skilled people through the community, including employees from the government, non government and private sectors on fixed-term contracts, and a range of professionals, often attracted by amenity and seeking a sea change or tree change. The aim of the study reported in this paper was to investigate how rural communities can optimise benefits from professional and other highly skilled workers in the context of an increasingly mobile and transitory workforce. The paper examines the characteristics and attributes of mobile skilled workers from six different Australian rural communities and one Canadian rural community. It overviews the reasons why mobile skilled workers become involved in rural communities, the process of integration, and the reasons why they decide to stay or leave. If rural communities better understand the characteristics and motivations of mobile skilled workers, they will be able to better harness the potential of this group. Community settings and, to a lesser extent, policy, make a difference to mobile skilled worker integration and community participation. Community settings such as culture, interactional infrastructure and leadership influence the integration process for mobile skilled workers. Effectiveness of the integration process determines the nature and extent of mobile skilled worker contribution to the community and the likelihood that the worker will be retained in the community. Rural communities that make the most of the available pool of skills provided by mobile skilled workers can increase resilience, community capacity, 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.

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