Reskill program for seniors

OUT-OF-WORK seniors in Perth’s northern suburbs will take part in a nationwide trial of a new program to help them re-skill and find jobs.

Career transition assistance program trials will also be held in Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia as part of the federal government’s $110 million mature age employment package in this year’s budget.

“Perth North was selected as a trial site because it is representative of a broad cross-section of the Australian labour market,” said a department of education spokesperson.

“That is, it reflects metropolitan and regional areas with sufficient numbers of mature age people looking for work.”

Mark Teale, chief executive of Council of the Ageing WA, says: “Trialling the program in the north of WA is significant because of the high numbers of mature aged unemployed people in this region.”

The assistance program will include short, intensive courses to boost the chances of mature age workers getting a job by gaining a better understanding of their local labour market, updating their résumé, and filling any skills gaps.

The program will also improve digital literacy of seniors and help them update their knowledge of commonly-used software.

The most recent figures in WA indicated that there are over 20,000 people over the age of 50 seeking employment.

In November 2015, the average duration of unemployment for mature-age people was 68 weeks, compared with 30 weeks for 15–24 year olds and 49 weeks for 25–54 year olds.

National Seniors Australia chief advocate Ian Henschke welcomed the initiative, but says Australia lagged behind the rest of the world when it came to hiring seniors and was 12th in the OECD rankings for employment rate of 55-64 year olds.

“New Zealand is employing way more seniors than us,” he says.

“We have to do better and ensure employers invest more in staff training to keep employees’ skills up to date.

“People should undergo a mid-life career check, a bit like when they get a big health check-up when they turn 50.

“The average time to find a job is over a year and that can have a big impact on someone’s financial and mental health.”

Mr Henschke says the aged care sector will continue to grow as people live longer and could provide employment opportunities for seniors.

“I know a Greek man who had a heavy manual labour job and he got badly injured,” he says.

“He got a job in an aged care home because he could converse with the Greek residents.

“The first week he couldn’t cope, but he stuck at it and the residents loved him coming in, and he could see that, and now gets a lot of satisfaction from the role.

“So seniors can retrain and move into completely different industries.”

The career transition assistance program trial will begin in July next year, ahead of a national rollout in 2020.

“Mature age Australians bring a lifetime of skills and experience to the workforce,” said federal employment minister Michaelia Cash.

“It is critical for both the individual and economy that this experience isn’t lost if older workers find themselves out of work.

“We recognise the immense capacity of mature age Australians and understand the need to provide unique support so they can upskill and fill key roles in Australian workplaces.”

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