The provision of employment opportunities within the Lithgow region is a challenge that must be met on a local and state level.
With an unemployment rate sitting well above the state average and the highest in the Central West, Lithgow City Council is right to see a fight ahead in securing the economic future of the valley.
Closures of rich employment opportunities, notably mines and power stations, have contributed to rising unemployment levels.
It is important, in this debate, that there is recognition that joblessness has many outcomes, including social problems associated with unemployment, particularly among young people.
Traditionally, there were plenty of avenues for young people to find a trade in the town in which they had grown up.
But changes in Lithgow's traditional industries have hit hard.
Lithgow now has a large level of youth unemployment and must deal with its associated problems of social disengagement and mental health issues.
The call is out there for state and federal governments to come to the party and pay attention to the needs of people left out of the workforce in the local area.
Whether the end game here is the provision of new services, such as a Headspace for Lithgow, or the better coordination of the existing services, this can only have positive outcomes for the community.
Our youth should not be forced to seek help at a distance. Problems associated with organising transport and accommodation may drive them away from seeking help at all. We do not want to see the rolling problems that can occur when people’s mental or physical wellbeing does not get the care it needs. With less job opportunities, we see less money flowing through the communities into local businesses and we see shopfronts such as Great Priced Furniture closing their doors.
Mayor Stephen Lesslie has flagged some possible moves for council to make, including the employment of an economic development officer in the future.
Having a staff member focused on the support and extension of economic opportunities for the council area can only be a positive move.
It is encouraging that possibilities for new jobs are being actively sought, among them the possible expansion of the Lithgow Correctional Centre and more development of the Mt Piper power station.