LOCAL job tsars appointed by the Federal Government in a $20 million scheme to help retrenched workers in regions worst hit by the financial crisis admit they will need to ”refocus” as queues of jobless fail to materialise.Local employment co-ordinators, each on six-figure salaries, are yet to deliver regional job plans for 20 areas identified for high-unemployment risk. Co-ordinators appointed in June in south-western Sydney and the Illawarra have told the Herald stimulus funds could be redirected to help more entrenched problems – such as the skills shortage.”There is not this mass of people losing their homes,” said Mark King, the local employment co-ordinator for south-western Sydney.Mr King’s Keep Australia Working Committee met for the first time last month, and will meet again on October 26.”There is some need to refocus. Because unemployment hasn’t reached the heights expected, there are some areas in the skills shortage where we can make some recommendations,” Mr King said.Jane Robinson, the local employment co-ordinator for the Illawarra, says her regional employment plan ”will change” as the national jobless rate eases.”We don’t want to lose sight of what the Government’s stimulus package is designed for, and that is to help workers made redundant with a fast response,” Ms Robinson said.”But in the Illawarra we’ve had a long-standing issue with unemployment, and multi-generational unemployment where people didn’t even benefit during boom times.”She said her plan will address youth and indigenous unemployment and the long-term unemployed.A Westpac-Melbourne Institute survey found yesterday that consumer anxiety about unemployment had the largest month-on-month fall in 13 years. Last month, 40,600 new jobs were recorded by the Bureau of Statistics.The co-ordinators said there had been some mass lay-offs in their regions they had been able to respond to. Ms Robinson said a special TAFE course began a fortnight ago to retrain 48 women who lost manufacturing jobs from a clothing factory. They will gain qualifications in aged care. Bonds will close another factory next year, hitting 200 jobs.Mr King said the American manufacturer Lincoln Electric will close in February and discussions on the retraining needs of 50 staff had found state funding was available.Amid calls for the Federal Government to wind back its stimulus and a stabilising jobless rate, the Keep Australia Working roadshow, starring the former ACTU boss, Bill Kelty, and trucking magnate Lindsay Fox, rolls on, arriving in Shellharbour in the Illawarra yesterday. It mimics a job-finding tour by the pair at the height of the 1990s recession. The tour will end today.
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