The Victorian government has joined forces with leading supermarket chains to fill workforce shortages by linking thousands of local jobseekers to food retailers.
Starting the program earlier this month, Jobs Victoria has already received more than 2,000 people expressing interest to work in Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and wholesaler Metcash as an outflux of COVID-positive employees leave retailers understaffed.
Roles available include pick-packers to assemble online orders, night-fillers to restock shelves, cashiers, delivery drivers and forklift operators.
“We've had some 2,000 people register their interest to work in our supermarket system and that's critically important given that there are hundreds, indeed, thousands of staff - whether it be at Coles, Woolworths, Aldi, or wholesaler Metcash - who have not been able to report for duty,” said Victorian Premier Dan Andrews.
“That's behind the scenes - the government working with our supermarkets to give people who are out of work, the skills and support they need to do the job that we need them to do."
The state government also plans to supply 25,000 rapid antigen tests (RATs) on a cost recovery basis to critical utilities and food supply chain services, including meat and poultry suppliers.
“Over the past few weeks, we've seen every part of the food supply chain has been impacted through team member isolations and workforce not being available. Whether that's farmers, food processers, manufacturers, transport - it's impacted in our own distribution centres in Coles and in our own stores," said Coles executive general manager of central operations & transformation Kevin Gunn.
“Many team members have stepped up and taken on additional hours.”
To try and manage the demand, Coles has provided further skills training to 77,000 employees in order increase flexibility as challenges continue to arise.
“We've been working with Jobs Victoria, who have done an amazing job. We've had over 1,000 candidates come forward,” said Gunn.
“I'm delighted to say we've got some team members who have actually started and are actually in our distribution centres.
“We are working hard to recover the situation across our stores, and our supply chain and things are getting a little better every day.”
The announcement comes as Victoria has recorded 11,695 positive COVID-19 cases. Of those, 7,207 were self-reported RATs and 4,488 came from PCR tests.
998 people are currently in hospital, with 119 in ICU and 47 on ventilators.
The state has recorded 17 deaths today.
Updated at 12.52pm AEDT on 24 January 2022.
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