A CRITICAL workforce shortage in the city's food processing industry has been solved with the arrival of up to 60 Pacific Islander workers.
A six-month lease deal between Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) and FIP Group has been kept under wraps until now, despite the workers moving into the former CAE airport building on Tuesday after two weeks in a Sydney quarantine facility.
The city's three biggest meat processing businesses; Teys Australia, Thomas Foods International and Baiada have faced serious workforce challenges given some locals have turned their noses up at the jobs, mayor Col Murray said.
"For many years now they have had to bring foreign workers in," he said.
"They simply can't get enough staff to work and at times I've had advice from them that they have been more than 100 workers short."
The CAE building has remained empty since the pilot training school packed its bags around June 2020, but for a short stint hosting Farrer high school students for quarantine shortly after.
The loss of CAE students dealt a huge blow to TRC's airport earnings, which have limped along through the worst of COVID-19.
Thomas Foods International's people and culture general manager Morna Young said the initiative is a positive move that helps address the workforce challenges facing the local industry.
"Thomas Foods is still seeking to fill a large number of job vacancies, from entry level to various skilled positions, at our Tamworth plant.
"We would encourage anyone interested in a rewarding career in the meat industry to get in touch with us."
A rental shortage in Tamworth made the building the perfect solution for FIP Group, a labour hire business engaged to accommodate overseas workers, Cr Murray said.
"The facility has laid idle out there for the last year or so, at least it's good to see some accommodation units being utilised," he said.
"Traditionally they get rental properties to house their workers in, but with our rental shortage they just can't find accommodation for the workers."
The newcomers are on working VISAS and the lease is temporary, with TRC still in negotiations about CAE's potential return.
Cr Murray said the council has been in "constant discussions" with the pilot-training school.
"They are very keen to get back and reestablish in Tamworth," he said.
"As soon as international borders are open or students are able to return to Australia they plan to get back into operations straight away."
CAE's general manager Mike Drinkall previously told the Leader200 Chinese students are on a waiting list when borders reopen.
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