'Backpicker' aims to improve farm labour shortages

A former farm and mining worker hopes his new app will help ease labour shortages in Victoria's north-west.

Robinvale local David Fevaleaki designed the Backpicker app to link farms with seasonal workers during busy harvest time and already thousands have signed up.

He said he got the idea for the mobile program from his time working on farms and in the mining game, where the legal status of itinerant workers could pose a problem for employers.

"During the registration, the workers have to input information so that the business owner understands their visa status," Mr Fevaleaki said.

"We will actually show the live available positions that pop up and as positions get filled, then they will disappear off the map."

The app is open to all farmers in Australia, but is currently focused on the agricultural region of Victoria.

Peter Muraca, a third-generation table grape grower from Robinvale, downloaded the app and said it was invaluable for employers who wanted to learn a little bit about the workers they were likely to employ. "You just know everything about them before you start," Mr Muraca said.

"You know how long they intend to stay, rather than having to train them up only to have them move on, because they haven't told you, and then you have to retrain again.

"With the app, they'll tell you they intend to stay for three months, so you know you're getting them for three months."

Mr Muraca said there was no other app on the market that he could use to locate labour. "I think it's a good idea," he said.

"Anything that gives you more options or a bigger pool can't be bad; it's got to be good."

'It will make life so much easier'

Berlin-based backpacker Leon Rief first came to Australia in 2018, and said he believed the app would have made finding work much easier.

"Finding a job was not easy without any contacts or experiences in a foreign country," he said.

"I used services like Seek, Craigslist and Gumtree, but that did not work out well for me because we got scammed a lot.

"On platforms like that there is little to no security for both parties, so I experienced a lot of problems as a worker and heard a lot of stories from employers who had problems with finding the right workers for their job.

"With Backpicker, both parties have the opportunity to have some security and with the profile a worker has the opportunity to show their experience."

Mr Rief said he thought the simplicity of the app would greatly assist both foreign workers and landowners who were not necessarily tech savvy.

"I was amazed how good everything worked out when I first dug into it," he said.

"It will make the life of both employers and workers so much easier."

As COVID-19 border restrictions start to ease across the country, Backpicker co-founder Mr Fevaleaki said he hoped the app would help make life a little easier for those who have been out of work

"It's just another tool … for travelling workers to help connect with farm businesses," he said.

"And we'll be listening to their feedback."


Source: ABC Rural

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