When Helen Breguet lost her job as a result of the global pandemic, she signed up to Working for Victoria and took the opportunity to try something new.

Helen stands in front of a road of shops and businesses in Mitchell Shire. She wears a pink scarf and grey jacket.

The past six months have brought enormous change for Helen Breguet, who turned a negative into a positive when she lost her job as a result of the global pandemic.

When her role as a global customer service manager was made redundant in May, the news came as a shock.

“I took a few weeks to regroup and think about where to from here,” Helen said. “I decided to look at it as an opportunity to pivot. That word is over-used, but I have done an MBA majoring in human resources so I thought I’d use it as an opportunity to move into an HR-based role and to translate my operational management experience into human resources.”

Helen signed up to Working for Victoria, hoping to find a role in local government.

In August she began a six-month position with Mitchell Shire Council as a human resources specialist in the Economic Development team. Helen is one of eight business strategy specialists hired through the program to help support local businesses.

“Our service is free to businesses within Mitchell Shire. There is a tax and accounting specialist, I’m the HR specialist, there’s a grant-writing specialist and there are a couple of general business-strategy specialists, who help people to pivot their businesses,” she said.

“We support them to change the way they’ve traditionally operated their businesses. They can have free sessions with us to support them in whatever they need.”

For example, the tax and accounting specialist has helped several local businesses to access new grants and funding.

“The other day he was able to help one local business to secure $20,000 worth of grant funding that they might not have otherwise got,” she said.

“We’re in the Economic Development team because that’s exactly what we’re doing; supporting local businesses to make sure they get through the pandemic and come out the other end.”

As the human resources specialist, Helen gives advice on things such as employee relations, remuneration, legal entitlements and obligations.

She also has taken the lead in helping hospitality businesses to increase their capacity for outdoor dining, calling cafes, bars and restaurants to see what assistance they require and helping them to access support.

She has identified “outdoor dining parklets” in Mitchell Shire suitable for use as outdoor dining space.

“We are living through a time when everything is changing every day and, as different initiatives and packages and supports are offered to businesses, it’s good from a council perspective to have the people there who can help to interpret and implement them.”

While the work is challenging and satisfying, there are personal benefits too, including an opportunity to work close to home.

“I usually work in the city so that’s four hours a day of travel by the time you get on the train and get to work and back,” Helen said. “My 11-year old daughter would love me to work locally all the time, so I’ve always kept my eye open for a local job.”

While it is currently a fixed six-month position, the role adds local government and HR experience to her CV.

“I’m all for continuous learning and for me this is completely different and challenging; it gives me insight into how things work in local government,” Helen said.

“But I think the best thing for me is that I’m helping in my local area and contributing to making sure our businesses will be ready for thousands of visitors, who hopefully will come and see what Mitchell Shire has to offer.”

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