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What’s stopping employees from joining the Sunshine Coast workforce?


A significant research project spearheaded by a leading business group has revealed what’s behind the Sunshine Coast’s workforce crunch, with a lack of affordable housing listed as just one of the factors.

The Caloundra Chamber of Commerce’s Regional Competitiveness Survey questioned 179 employers and 454 potential employees to understand the Sunshine Coast’s workforce needs and facilitate regional growth.

As a collaboration with the University of the Sunshine Coast, the survey’s findings were published in the ‘Regional Competitiveness: Perceptions of “Living Working and Playing” on the Sunshine Coast’ white paper.

In 2023, the Sunshine Coast’s workforce grew from 194,300 to 208,600.

But despite the growth businesses are being forced to cut hours and even days of operation as they battle to find and retain staff.

Moffat Beach Brewing Co. general manager Craig Williams said the popular brewery had been challenged with chef shortages throughout the post-COVID era.

“We were forced to close our restaurant on Monday because we didn’t have a chef available,” he said.

“We have constantly been recruiting for over a year and while we go through phases of having a chef, they find the same challenge with finding affordable accommodation within the region.”

Mr Williams said there are many hospitality businesses on the brink of closing.

“The post-COVID-era has been more challenging than when COVID was happening … because there is no support structure and we have been left with an industry reeling,” he said.

The research demonstrated businesses were eager to grow with 55 per cent of Sunshine Coast organisations revealing plans to expand their workforce by hiring one to five employees.

However, results show potential employees are unsatisfied with the region’s livability, highlighting housing, nightlife and transport as top concerns.

Employees scored the region’s nightlife 3.41 out of five while employers rated it a 2.52.
Our potential workforce also said there was a “lack of decent public transport”.

Caloundra Chamber CEO Brady Sullivan said the research proved the lack of available and affordable housing, transportation, and nightlife was hindering business growth and called for all levels of government to take practical action.

“The Sunshine Coast will need 203,940 employees by 2026,” Mr Sullivan said.

“To ensure we harness the region’s growth and create a prosperous future for everyone in our community, we need to boost nightlife, build reliable transport infrastructure, and provide affordable housing options.”

Mr Sullivan said projects like the Coochin Fields festival venue and Sunshine Coast Mass Transit would be “game changers” in improving the Sunshine Coast’s livability offering, attracting more talent to support our region’s growing workforce needs.