Sunday, January 5, 2014

Diversity in the Workplace Matters

For the past 5 months, I have been working with 50 people aged 50 and over who are currently unemployed. It is a program called ‘Experience+ Work Ready Program’ and is funded by DEEWR. It has been rolled out in 17 different locations around the country.

The focus of this program has been to provide intensive job ready preparation (workshops, career coaching, resume assistance and more) followed by placement into a job.
The process has been inspiring, frustrating and rewarding.
  • Key observations include:In general, all the participants have been hard working and loyal people in their careers with over 30 years of solid work experience.
  • Many have not experienced job interviews for more than 10 years so there is a knowledge gap. The style of job interviews has changed drastically (behaviour based questions, panels, psychometric testing etc.).
  • There is a stronger focus on qualifications. Many participants have not updated their qualifications for 15+ years. 
  • Many participants are at an age where they just want to be themselves in a job interview. But it is still about playing the game.
  • Only a small percentage of participants own an iphone. Many still have older phones so they can’t sync their emails to their phones. Today’s employment market requires candidates to be responsive if there is a call up for an opportunity. Some participants may not check their email for at least a few days.
  • In general, the healthier participants have had more luck in securing job interviews and jobs. Some participants have a few health restrictions so there is a limit to career changes and work availability during the week. For example, one of the participants can only work after midday due to a medical condition.
  • Some participants are from culturally diverse backgrounds. There have been some frank discussions with some participants who have pitched themselves at customer service / help desk roles. Their strong accents may be an issue so there are some realities checks required on suitable career choices moving forward.
  • Depression is a common health issue among the men. Typically men have been the breadwinners in their families so they find it particularly difficult to cope without a job. 
  • Age discrimination is alive and kicking in Australian society. Some of the participants that I deemed to be job ready immediately were being overlooked. Age and perceptions of older people had to be the only factor because their work experience, personable qualities and qualifications were more impressive than many employed people.
Case studies:

Jack worked as a sales manager selling white goods for 30 years until he was made redundant about 6 months ago.  He was sick of dealing with customers and wanted to change to the construction industry. We provided funding for his Yellow Card and First Aid Certificate. He now contracts as a lolly pop man and loves it.

Michael worked in the manufacturing sector in a purchasing role. He was made redundant in his last role. Age discrimination posed as a real threat for him. I worked with Michael giving him intensive interview preparation. He won a purchasing role at a biomedical organisation. It was an excellent outcome because he secured a job that he wanted and it is in a growth sector.

This program has now been axed by the Federal Government post January 2014. The Abbott Government has replaced it with a $3,500 payment (up from $1,000) to employers who hire an employee aged 50 and over.  This band aid effort is insulting to our older Australians and does not provide adequate assistance to respond to the challenges of mature age workers.

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