Opinion article

Making the employment connection for future job security

Following her appearance at State of the Nation, Workskil Australia Chief Executive Officer, Nicole Dwyer, discusses the challenges facing job seekers and the ways we can improve future job security in Australia. 

Effectively addressing future job security in Australia requires insightful problem solving on both sides of the employment equation. Connecting disadvantaged job seekers with employers to generate sustainable employment is no easy task, particularly in a jobs market experiencing significant change. However, by focusing on effective strategies aimed at improving the ‘employability’ of disadvantaged job seekers and encouraging more employers to give someone a go, mutually beneficial outcomes can be achieved.

Disadvantaged job seekers

Certain cohorts of our community are over-represented in unemployment data and face many challenges in joining the workforce. These people are typically unskilled and semi-professionals without a tertiary education who are struggling to make ends meet every week. These are the very people Workskil Australia is committed to helping. Over the 2018-19 financial year, we supported tens of thousands of job seekers identifying as:

• Young (aged under 25)
• Mature aged
• Indigenous Australian
• Culturally and linguistically diverse
• Refugees
• School students at risk of disengaging with their education
• People with disability, illness or injury
• Ex-offenders.

The odds are stacked against many of these job seekers from the start. High competition for jobs in Australia is pushing inexperienced jobseekers and the long-term unemployed to the back of the queue. At the same time unskilled job roles are disappearing due to automation, technology and offshoring, which is also adding more redundant job seekers from manufacturing backgrounds to the market.

On average, 15 people apply for every single unskilled or semi-skilled role. Of those, eight will be current workers looking for a move, four will be recently unemployed (less than three months), two will be young people who have just left school with no experience and one will be a long-term unemployed person. It’s a competitive environment and those with strong resumes and with experience are at a distinct advantage.

At the same time, underemployment is also on the rise. In industries such as retail, we see many people stuck in the casual workforce with between 10 and 20 hours of work a week ­- not quite enough to live off, but not low enough for employment assistance to help them get back into full time work.

Employer challenges

Employers face their own recruitment and training challenges to operate successfully in an environment increasingly impacted by automation and technology change. They may not be aware of the free programs in place to help source and train staff.

At the same time, workforce diversity is a key consideration among employers. The overwhelming feedback we receive from employers is that having a diverse workforce which reflects the local community provides real value to the workplace. Yet, while we’re noticing an increase in the number of employers looking to ensure a diverse workforce, the statistics are still concerning.

For example, while the commitment and intent among employers to employ Indigenous Australians has improved dramatically over the years, unemployment for Indigenous Australians is triple that of non-Indigenous Australians. Clearly there is still much to be done.

Way forward

Several touch points along the employment journey can be addressed to improve the outlook.

The delivery of targeted employment services continues to play a key role in helping disadvantaged jobseekers upskill and become more ‘work ready’. Programs such as Transition to Work - in which young people are assisted to build skills, gain confidence and become ready for employment - are making a real difference.

Career Transition Assistance programs are also helping improve the digital competency of older job seekers, while cultural intelligence and diversity workshops are supporting employers to develop a more culturally competent and inclusive workforce with a particular emphasis on providing opportunities to Indigenous Australians.

There are currently skill shortages for mechanics, metal workers, welders and panel beaters and we see investing in these areas to meet future demand as a prudent long-term step that benefits all parties. Reversing the downward trend in the number of apprenticeships and traineeships available to job seekers is therefore paramount. Work experience opportunities also have a key role in opening doors for job seekers to demonstrate they have the right attitude for work, which is the most valued characteristic employers look for in new hires.

Despite the welcomed initiatives by Government and the private sector in securing the future workforce, there still is a concerning gap between disadvantaged job seekers and employers. Closing this gap will go a long way to maximising future productivity, wellbeing and ultimately generate a greater and more equitable standard of living across our communities.

About the authors

Nicole Dwyer

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Nicole is the current CEO and Board Member of Workskil Australia and has been in the role for six years. Workskil Australia is a national not-for-profit employment and community provider that delivers across Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. Prior to this she worked at KPMG for eight years providing advisory services to the Government and NFP sectors in employment, education and Indigenous affairs. Nicole has a Master of Business Administration, Master of Social Science, Graduate Diploma of Education and Bachelor of Science (Psychology). Nicole is a current Board Member of the National Employment Services Association (NESA).

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