By Ron Maxwell - CEO
Australia's ageing population coupled with increasing life expectancy means that many of us are going to have to work longer than ever before. The reality is that retiring at age 65 is not possible for many, and with around 15 per cent of Australians currently aged 65 or over, and this number only set to grow, our economy would be hard hit if it was.
But working into our later years can be fraught with worry; the risk of redundancy or technology replacing our jobs is very real for some of us. Statistics show that finding employment after 50 can be far more challenging, and at a time of such rapid change, where we are seeing some roles and even industries shrinking or becoming obsolete, it can be hard to see the opportunities.
Older Australians have much to offer
More and more employers are realising the benefits of hiring mature-aged workers, who bring a wealth of experience and skills that can only be learnt over time, along with stability, reliability, resilience and maturity. There are also numerous studies out there that show that an intergenerational workforce improves productivity and increases engagement and collaboration, so hiring older workers really makes sense on a number of levels.
Mature-aged workers can also be fantastic mentors for younger employees who might be new to the role or the industry and can benefit from a mentor with a wealth of experience. It's not just industry or job experience either; it’s life experience. From dealing with different personalities, to navigating workplace politics, and coping with change, older workers have a rich tapestry of experience to share.
Employer attitudes are changing but there are still misconceptions
Employers are changing their attitudes towards hiring older workers and we are hearing more and more good news stories about businesses who are actively seeking them out. At NAB, for example, mature aged workers have become a key part of their recruitment and diversity strategy because they see experience and resilience as sources of competitive advantage.
One of the key misconceptions we hear from employers when it comes to hiring older workers is that they won’t be able to adapt to technology, however, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that Australians aged 55-64 are the fastest growing users of information technology. In many cases, the person simply hasn't had exposure to a particular device or piece of software, and it's just a case of accessing the right training opportunities.
Which brings me to another misconception; sometimes employers can't see training an older employee as a long-term investment. However, with such high job mobility in younger generations, (employees under 25 are likely to change jobs every 20 months, compared to 6 years and 8 months for those aged 45+), the reality is in stark contrast.
Finding opportunities in a changing workforce
Amid all this disruption, it can be difficult to see opportunity, but the reality is that there are options out there for older workers. The key lies in upskilling or re-skilling to build the digital and technical skills that support existing skills and experience. You can teach a person how to use technology, but soft skills and experience built over many years in the workplaceare irreplaceable.
The Federal Government has funded a number of programs for both employers and individuals, such as Skills Checkpoint and Career Transition Assistance, which are designed to help mature-aged workers develop the skills employers are looking for. Taking advantage of these programs is critical for older Australians who need the digital capabilities and confidence to take on a new role or transition to a new career.
Beyond skill building, many of these initiatives also help job seekers and employees at risk of redundancy to create a career plan and access the resources and services that will help them realise their goals. And, if you are eligible, you can access government funding, so it won’t affect your hip pocket either.
If you are an employer who has mature-aged workers in need of up or re-skilling, or you are an older Australian looking for new opportunities, I encourage you to contact the local provider of Skills Checkpoint in your region to find out more.