While the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially hard on businesses and communities in Melbourne’s north, it’s also proven to be a gateway to employment opportunities in the caravan manufacturing industry — 90 percent of which happens to be located in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

Michael at work at Crusader Caravans.

Crusader Caravans is one of the many caravan manufacturers to welcome the Victorian Government’s new partnership with Caravan Industry Victoria and NORTH Link.

The Jobs Victoria caravan manufacturing industry initiative is providing $2.85 million over two years to companies like Crusader Caravans to train and recruit 150 jobseekers for a variety of new roles on assembly lines, in service and repairs, warehousing and logistics, and administration and sales.

Nearly 100 caravan manufacturers are located in Melbourne’s Northern Metropolitan region, considered the heartland of Australia’s caravan manufacturing industry — and an area that was heavily affected by high unemployment rates during lockdown.

Most manufacturers have been struggling with skilled labour shortages and an inability to meet the huge surge in demand for caravans, which has increased by 30 percent in 2021 alone, due to people’s change in travel preferences.

From unemployment to a secure career path

Michael La Rocca was unemployed for more than six months before joining Crusader Caravans as part of the Jobs Victoria program.

“This is the first time I have worked with caravans, so they are teaching me everything. It’s a new experience and I like this kind of experience, working all the way through from the beginning to end on a beautiful caravan,” he said.

“I recommend it to other people because it’s a good job and a great career,” he said.

The initiative gives people looking for work the opportunity to undergo paid pre-employment vocational training, including core competencies for the Certificate III in Recreation Vehicle Manufacturing. In addition to part-time work placements, they receive mentoring and post-placement support from NORTH Link to help with their transition.

Three groups of new employees have already completed their training and have started work with ten different caravan manufacturers in Melbourne’s north.

Growing our manufacturing sector and reducing labour shortages

General Manager, Operations at Crusader Caravans, Erkut Fevzi, says the Jobs Victoria Fund has been a game changer for his business and the caravan manufacturing sector as a whole – providing career pathways as workers develop their skills.

“Our partnership with Jobs Victoria is very important to us because it addresses the labour shortage problems the caravan industry is currently facing. This program is going to take a lot of pressure off the industry,” said Erkut.

“We have an opportunity to really train these people at an optimal level to learn the caravan assembly process and that is key. The new employees have been fantastic. Having good people has really changed the dynamics of our business. They absolutely love it and support our growth which means success for the business,” he added.

The Jobs Victoria partnership with NORTH Link and Caravan Industry Victoria is an example of its ongoing commitment to supporting industries, jobseekers and communities across the state to recover and thrive.

For more information, visit Jobs Victoria Fund.