[singlepic id=233 w=320 h=240 float=left]Treasurer and Minister for Employment and Economic Development Andrew Fraser today met 20 North Queensland jobseekers who’ve donned wetsuits and scuba gear to join the workforce.

Mr Fraser said the previously unemployed young men and women were taking part in a $1 million employment project involving scuba diving training to help eradicate the destructive Crown of Thorns Starfish and Drupella snails on the Great Barrier Reef.

“This one-of-a-kind project is part of a collaborative strategic plan to protect the Cairns economy – not only are we skilling up jobseekers to enter the workforce, but also tackling Crown of Thorns infestations that can cause widespread devastation to the Reef,” Mr Fraser said.

“This project is the biggest undertaken as part of our Green Army initiative and is being delivered in partnership with the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators.

“The Green Army initiative goes to the heart of our strategic plan to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

“That’s why we’re investing $57 million to create 3000 jobs over three years – a target which we’re already half way to meeting.”

Member for Cairns Desley Boyle said the project was not only helping to save the Great Barrier Reef, but also giving 20 local jobseekers a kick start towards a long-term career in the diving industry.

“Not only are we providing local jobseekers with the opportunity to gain skills towards new careers, they are also contributing to protecting our magnificent Great Barrier Reef,” Ms Boyle said.

Member for Barron River Steve Wettenhall said the project’s 20 participants had progressed from being unemployed, and in some cases almost giving up hope, to enthusiastic, skilled employees with a job that many would envy.

“The project is already seeing results – four of the participants already have job offers when they complete this project in October, and AMPTO is confident there will be more job offers as the project draws to a close.”

Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said the Green Army initiative was a vital part of the Government’s plan to ensure Queenslanders have the skills that local employers need to keep the economy moving forward.

“We need to maintain our determination and commitment to fighting unemployment on every front,” he said.

Project Manager Steve Moon said that four months into the project the participants had gained a great deal of confidence as well as skills and experience.

“They completed basic training after a month of intensive theory and practical sessions and since the end of May have been diving in pairs under supervision, working on the eradication process,” Mr Moon said.

“They’re enjoying the work immensely and even have been giving up their rostered days off to do the theory component of the advanced Dive Control specialist training.

“As part of that advanced training they give presentations in front of their entire class, something that most of them would have lacked the confidence to do when they first joined this project.”

Mr Moon said the participants’ initial training included first aid, open water diving and rescue diving, competencies required under the Workplace Health and Safety Occupational Diving Work Code of Practice.

“Now they’re on the job they dive along a number of popular reefs from north of Port Douglas to south of Cairns and use specially designed ‘guns’ to inject the Crown of Thorns Starfish pests with a concentrated solution of Sodium Bisulphate. They also collect the Drupella snails and destroy them.

“By the time they finish this project in October most will have the required skills to apply for positions as dive supervisors.”

Mr Moon said that as part of the project the participants would be linked to industry employers for full-time employment opportunities and would receive up to six months post project support to help with their job search.

The Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) received Green Army funding of more than $610,000 for the Crown of Thorns Starfish Control project and industry contributed a further $435,000.

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