Where are the workers? Sonya Carr at the family-owned mill in Killarney.
Where are the workers? Sonya Carr at the family-owned mill in Killarney.

Timber mill still short of workers

HOW in a town, where 120 people have lost their jobs in the past month, can a successful family-owned business struggle to find staff?

It is a question which confounds Killarney-based timber mill owner Sonya Carr.

The personable local, who operates Carramar Timbers, has been advertising for junior staff and maintenance personnel without luck.

It is a situation she finds ironic considering Killarney Abattoir, the town’s largest employer, put off 120 people when it went into voluntary administration last week.

“It is frustrating, disappointing and difficult to understand,” Mrs Carr said.

“We can offer traineeships and certificate qualifications for young people; we are prepared to mentor them, we just want people who have a good attitude to work and we can teach them the rest.”

Proof of the family’s commitment to the next generation of timber workers was evident at the Killarney mill this week by two junior employees who have been learning the trade since 2008.

“At times we question whether the fact we are still looking for staff is a reflection on us but then we talk with other small business owners and hear the same thing,” Mrs Carr said.

“Finding young people who are committed to work and willing to learn the trade is difficult.

“When we’ve advertised, we’ve had other mills ring us asking if we could forward the names of applicants we don’t hire.

“Then we’ve had to tell them we haven’t had any. So it’s a widespread problem.”

Strangely enough, it was the belief moving into town, especially a timber-centre like Killarney, would reduce their staffing worries that motivated the Carrs to relocate six years ago.

“We thought relocating to the centre of town would make all the difference staff-wise,” Mrs Carr said.

“Before that we were out in the bush and thought the distance deterred people.

“The fact we can’t find more staff is limiting our ability to expand.”

Carramar Timbers has become one of the state’s small business success stories: supplying timber nationally for decking and flooring. Only recently the company won a contract to supply its product to a major development on the Darwin waterfront.

“We’re the only Australian company producing 240mm-wide timber flooring,” Catherine Carr explained.

Closure of the Killarney Abattoir exacerbated the situation for Sonya Carr.

“We had a young chap come in and do a couple of shifts then not turn up again, so I was forced to go out and do the work he had been employed to do,” she said.

“We can’t take up the slack of the abattoir closure but do have positions for young people and a skilled older person. I know there are people desperate for work who we can’t help and my heart goes out to them.

“Killarney has felt hollow since the closure but, for young people who want work, we have jobs going.”

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