How to get back to the workforce

The Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, talks about a new initiative to get people back into the workforce.

How to get back into the work force

Ross Greenwood:  First up on Work Life Money Going right around Australia today. Could I just tell you as we’ve spoken many times in the past trying to get yourself a job when you’re aged over 50 becomes significantly more difficult and therefore the unemployment rate of people aged over 50 is almost as serious as youth unemployment? There are many programs to try and get young people into work and they are important there’s no doubt. But equally important given the fact that our retirement age is advancing and that people’s expectations of longevity is also increasing.

Then people need to work deeper into their lives. Problem is if you can’t get that work when you’re aged over 50 you have got some big problems especially if you’ve still got a mortgage or these days increasingly kids at school. What the government is doing is to create what’s called a career transition assistance program. This year when it was started it was announced in the budget this year, a 110 million dollar mature age employment package.

It’s going to deliver short intensive courses skills assessments, exploration of suitable occupation, research of local labor markets and resilience strategies as well, to help people extend their work life and money. Let’s go to the employment minister Michaelia Cash right now. Many thanks for your time Michaelia

Interview with Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment

Michaelia Cash: Great to be with you Ross.

Ross Greenwood:  Just explain one issue here the person has to be aged over 50 that is really the point at which the problems of getting yourself back into the workforce are really exaggerated.

Michaelia Cash:  That’s exactly right. The current rate of unemployment for people over 50 in Australia is 3.7%, so it’s actually below the average for working age Australians. What we found is this, the data shows that people over the age of 50 when they do become unemployed will spend more time unemployed and that’s why this program focus specifically on their needs to assist them in getting back into the workforce.

Ross Greenwood:  I’m presuming the reason why the unemployment rate for those people is so low, is mainly because many of those people simply become retired as it were and as a result they either can’t find the work and so those people over 65 and 70 they’re retired and if they show up in these numbers then quite clearly that’s a different thing isn’t it?

Michaelia Cash:  That’s exactly right. In terms of the program itself it’s being developed in response to a lot of the feedback that we were getting from employers but also those people above the age of 50 that are as you’ve widely articulated, “Hey we’re all living longer and we’ve got expectation. We are going to have to work longer to fund our lifestyles.” But one of the issues that mature age job seekers face is a lack of up to date skills, but also a lack of computer and technology skills.

And let’s face it our reality is you’ve got to have in particular those computer and technology skills to participate in sort of a workforce in 2017 and projecting forward. Very much that’s what the program is looking at. It’s a career transition assistance program. What can we do to help you get the skills you need to ensure that you can continue to participate in the workforce?

Ross Greenwood:  What do you think about the notion that there are some employers who are resistant or reluctant to employ an older Australian? I know we’ve got all sorts of anti-discrimination laws in place. It shouldn’t happen but it seems that it just does and that’s the anecdotal feedback I get the whole time. It’s very hard to break through that, isn’t it?

Michaelia Cash:  We look but that is why the program is quite unique because it has been developed in response to that feedback from employers so that a partner went to employers and said, “What are the barriers you face in taking on a mature age person?” They did identify those two issues, “Love to take them on however we need up to date skills and we need computer and technology skills.” That’s why a part of the program is focused on ensuring that they have those skills, but it’s also about improving their digital literacy et cetera.

Also we’re going to be working with the employers by providing them with a greater pool of skilled potential recruits in their region because what’s one thing the employer does want. They actually do want the experience that you’ve had in a workforce. Many older people let’s face it, have only worked with one to three employers, so they have the loyalty associated with longevity in employment. They can obviously mentor a lot of the younger people in the workforce, so by building a program that responds to direct feedback we’re addressing barriers that employers tell us they face.

Ross Greenwood:  Okay because this also is part of a package what is that was announced in the budget in May.

Michaelia Cash:  That’s right.

Ross Greenwood:  They will take the seven payments including new staff, sickness allowances, bereavement allowances, widow and partner pensions into a single job seeking payment but the idea of that is by bringing all of those into the one central payment. It’s about trying to get the person back into the workforce and therefore all those forms of compensation are seen to be relatively short-term assistance packages, to actually give them a transition back to work and back to a wage.

Michaelia Cash:  The government or the Turnbull government is very much focused on activating participation. As you rightly pointed out we are living longer because we’re living longer we’re going to need to work longer. The psychology that we bring to all of our employment programs and even the welfare system is, what can we do to activate you to participate in the workforce? So even the streamlining of the payments that Christian Porters done is all about making it as simple as possible, but also ensuring that the focus is on activating you, activating you, activating you. How do we ensure that you have the skills you need so you can either get back into the workforce or continue in the workforce?

Ross Greenwood:  I’d say it’s a really interesting project because this whole notion of course that people somehow have lost their pension’s given by the government, welfare given by the government can be something that can sit there for 10 or 15 years as distinct from the six months or 12 months a person needs to get themselves back on their feet. I should explain to people that the five trial areas Ballarat and Victoria some are set in Queensland the central western New South Wales, Adelaide South and also Perth North.

Plus also plans for a partner program to try and place older workers into major infrastructure projects as well. Given the fact is a massive amount of infrastructure being rolled out that’s a pretty important one as well.

Michaelia Cash:  It absolutely is and that’s why we’ve also got as part of this package the Pathway to Work Pilots so up to 10 pilots are going to be developed and what they will do is they’ll create the opportunities for job seekers on income support including mature age and people with a disability. We’ll work in selected growth industries and all those you’ve pointed out the large infrastructure projects and we will target free employment training and specialized assistance with job matching, so this is all about looking at you, looking at the job and getting you ready for that job, but also working with the employers so we can say to them, “Hi we’ve got a whole pool of labor here that’s ready for you and we literally assist in their transition.

Ross Greenwood:  Yes, now it really is for people who can extend their work month it is absolutely vital.

Michaelia Cash:  You know the interesting thing is you know when you actually start to talk to people I think it’s near dawning on people we’re all getting older. This could be us one day.

Ross Greenwood:  You just worked this out have you Michaelia seriously? [laughs]

Michaelia Cash:  We’re 47 at the moment so when I look at the age 50 I think, “Oh my God.”

Ross Greenwood:  There are a lot of people who felt that before there’s no doubt. Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, always great to have a chat.

Michaelia Cash:  Good to be with you Ross.

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