With traditional employment transforming to keep pace with new technologies and innovation, General Manager, Michael Edgar talks about how The Hills Shire Council is planning for the jobs of the future.
Michael Edgar is currently the General Manager of The Hills Shire Council.
Michael has a breadth of experience in Local Government and spent 11 years as Group Manager for Strategic Planning for The Hills. As General Manager, he is responsible for leading one of Australia's fastest-growing and most financially sustainable Councils.
Michael has been involved in working with the State Government in planning for the future growth of The Hills that will accompany the arrival of the Sydney Metro North West. He is passionate about achieving excellence in design, great built form and providing prosperous places for people to be in.
Q: What is Council's role in planning for the future of business in The Hills?
A: As a Council, our job is to try to predict what the jobs of the future might be and work towards ensuring we have the right type of zoned land for that purpose.
Obviously the jobs of the future are expected to be in the knowledge economy, however we also need to ensure that we have jobs for all the essential trades and services our community needs.
With local manufacturing jobs declining, retail heading in brave new directions and higher demand for jobs that serve new populations, Council needs to consider these trends in their decision making.
We need to be aware of impediments to growth and where possible - and within our means - make adjustments to remove them.
As part of our planning for the future, we need to try to understand more about our people - who is coming to The Hills, who is already competent and trained, where are the gaps in our collective knowledge and where is the future heading in our local industries? This helps us make better decisions.
We also need to consider the type of jobs our residents are likely to need and make sure our zoning decisions make it possible for those jobs to be located here.
The challenge for our businesses is to ensure their employees have the skills to adapt to the jobs of the future as they emerge.
Q: How have jobs changed over the years?
A: Over the last 10 years, there has been structural change in the nature of employment in The Hills, and the power of new and emerging technologies will solve what some feel are current problems, and create opportunities in the future.
Traditional jobs like manufacturing, retail and wholesale trade have seen little change or declined, while new economy jobs - like information, media and telecommunications, professional, scientific and technical services, education and training, health care and social assistance - have all seen gains. Interestingly, from 2006 to 2016, while retail sale figures grew by $364 million, the number of people employed in the sector remained largely unchanged. This could indicate that the emerging trend of online shopping is starting to have an impact on local retail jobs.
This trend means that small businesses involved in retail or wholesale trade must understand the implications of this for their businesses and build models around how customers are making their decisions.
Q: What is our region's competitive advantage?
A: As a growth Council, we enjoy the advantage of being able to strategically plan for future employment land requirements to align with the needs of new populations.
Sydney is evolving as it grows to become a metropolis of three cities as described by the Greater Sydney Region Plan - the financial base of Eastern Harbour City, the legal and medical hub of Central River and the future defence and aerospace centre of Western Parkland City.
The Hills is strategically located to make the most of the opportunities this structure will bring in the future, with our competitive advantage being our location.
Businesses in The Hills will be easily able to access each of these cities within 30 minutes, positioning our region to become one of the leading service economies to all three hubs. The future of business in The Hills will involve leveraging off the changes, opportunities and developments taking place in these locations.
The arrival of the Sydney Metro NorthWest will mean we become even more accessible - to workers, to new business opportunities and for our residents to move about easily within their own communities.
Our housing options, particularly the new and existing executive residences and lifestyle options around Norwest, are also a key competitive advantage offering excellent working close to home opportunities.
The Hills is also a great place to raise a family, with fantastic schools and educational opportunities.
Q: What can Council offer local businessowners?
A: We started our business visits program around 10 years ago to give local businesses the tools they need to make better decisions, and go on to create the jobs of the future.
People can use this service to access demographic data and information about the region that is not easily available anywhere else.
We also wanted to hear first-hand the issues they face in establishing and growing their business in The Hills. To date, we have met with thousands of local businesses and gathered enormous amounts of valuable feedback.
It's fair to say that this has been an extremely popular service with the business community and has become a benchmark for others.
Q: What's happening around the Metro stations?
A: We are growing at a phenomenal rate along with the rest of Sydney. Council has a strong track record of accommodating its share of Sydney's growth, and the Sydney Metro Northwest will play an important role in this growth.
This multi-billion dollar service will generate opportunities for people to live and work in the precincts around it beyond our current imaginations. The connectivity between our towns and centres will be enhanced as it provides an alternative to road connections.
For The Hills, this means that while the character of the areas around Castle Hill, Hills Showground, Norwest, Bella Vista, Kellyville and Rouse Hill stations will change, Council has worked hard with State Government agencies and the Minister for Planning to create areas that will balance homes and jobs with quality of life.
Q: What will the future look like?
A: Our goal is to provide as much information, education and support as possible to help our local businesses grow in order to create a well-connected, thriving local economy for the future - with plenty of opportunities for locals to live and work close to home doing the work they enjoy. A high proportion of the jobs of the future are expected to be in the knowledge economy. New companies spun out of research and development will take a leading role in creating the businesses of the future and many will have strong links with the university sector.
Future jobs that will also be essential for new communities are service jobs such as motor vehicle and mechanical repairers, trades services, retail, education and community care sectors, and we need to ensure we retain enough affordable industrial land for these purposes.
As well, our vision for our new rail precincts revolves around making the most of the opportunities that having world-class public transport on the doorstep will offer because research shows that most future jobs will be aligned with public transport.
Currently, there are approximately 65,000 in The Hills and this will need to double over the next 30 years as the population doubles. If you're a business owner or manager, and would like business market intelligence about The Hills and surrounding areas to help you plan for the future, I highly recommend you take the time to contact our Economic Development Team for a tailored business visit.