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Big River Wagga employees re-training with government program

Around 50 timber mill workers in Wagga Wagga who faced losing their jobs have received free training and a personal skills’ matching service, thanks to the NSW Government’s JobTrainer program. Source: Timberbiz

Big River Industries announced in November last year that its Forest Hill mill would be   closing to consolidate its operations at its home base in Grafton, NSW.

The workers, some of whom have been at the mill for more than 30 years, are now ready to re-enter the Wagga Wagga workforce.

Big River received $10 million as part of the NSW Government’s Bushfire Industry Recovery Package in the aftermath of the 2019/20 bushfires.

“Following the devastating 2019/20 bushfires, these funds helped Big River relocate and expand its existing operations in Grafton,” Deputy NSW Premier John Barilaro said.

“Now, through the NSW Government’s JobTrainer program, we are retraining those who didn’t take part in the company’s move north, to support local industries in need of skilled workers.

“People in our regions have been severely impacted by not only the bushfires, but the pandemic that has followed, and the NSW Government is ensuring no worker is left behind.”

Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said the work to prepare employees for the mill’s closure will help reduce the economic hit usually linked to a company closing its doors.

“Training Services NSW has worked with Big River to support each worker who did not relocate north with the company to identify ways that they can upskill and retrain to help find other work,” Mr Lee said.

“The bushfires impacted so many of our regional businesses and industries, and I am committed to ensuring workers have the support to upskill for a new job or better job.”

Maintenance Manager at Big River, Damien Periera, said it was a bittersweet time for workers.

“Ultimately the log supply was in danger and there was not enough to make the mill viable, but Training Services NSW has been invaluable in making sure our staff are matched to other jobs,” Mr Periera said.

“That is a big relief for any business going through a similar situation in these circumstances. It’s great to know there is NSW Government support available to help people land on their feet.”