The Sustainability of Regional South Australia: Attracting and Retaining Skilled Employees in Small Business

By Janet Sawyer and Nina Evans.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

South Australia is currently in a unique situation due to the recent discovery of large mineral deposits and the establishment of new mines around the State. Despite this so-called ‘boom’ in the mining industry the Whyalla Economic Development Board (WEDB) has raised some concerns about the sustainability of small businesses in the Whyalla region. Attracting and retaining professional and skilled people to live and work in regional communities is critical to the sustainability of local firms. However, many small businesses in Whyalla are facing challenges to retain capable employees, as they train these employees and then lose them to the mines because they are unable to compete with the high level of wages being offered. The City’s ageing population also contributes to the loss of skills. One way of attracting skilled people to regional areas such as Whyalla has been through participating in a skilled migration program. This paper describes the outcomes of research by the Centre for Regional Engagement of the University of South Australia - in collaboration with the WEDB - involving small businesses operating within the retail and services sector in Whyalla. The research investigated the mechanisms used by the businesses to fulfil their social responsibility obligations towards their employees in order to retain them and enhance the sustainability of the firm. It was found that strategies to find and keep suitable employees were to attract skilled migrants to the area and to maintain a “happy workplace”. The results of this research will provide useful information to bodies such as the WEDB, enabling them to support the businesses in finding solutions to the employment problem.

Keywords: Sustainability, Social and Environmental Responsibility, Small Business, Employees

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 5, Issue 6, pp.227-238. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.184MB).

Dr. Janet Sawyer

Head, Business and Regional Enterprise Unit, Centre for Regional Engagement, University of South Australia, Whyalla, SA, Australia

DR. JANET SAWYER is Head, Business and Regional Enterprise at the Centre of Regional Engagement of the University of South Australia. She is a senior lecturer in accounting and program director of the business programs at the Whyalla Campus and Mount Gambier Regional Centre. Her main area of research is on the links between knowledge of ergonomics, compliance, workplace culture and personal well-being and health in relation to the use of computer technology. Janet’s teaching interests include accounting education, accounting for small business and current issues in financial reporting.

Dr. Nina Evans

Associate Head of School, School of Computer and Information Science, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia

DR. NINA EVANS Enterprise is Associate Head of the School of Computer and Information Science(CIS) at the University of South Australia. DR. NINA EVANS has been working for the University of South Australia since 2007, both as a Senior lecturer with the Business and Regional Enterprise Unit and as Associate Head of the School of Computer and Information Science(CIS). Before moving to Australia in 2007 she was Head of the Department of Business Informatics and ICT leadership at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in Pretoria, South Africa where she was responsible for the general management of the department and was the leader of the research niche area “ICT for business enhancement”.


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