It has been a challenging 12 months for older workers who have felt the full brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, however one government incentive has helped some unlock the door to exciting new careers, in industries they may never have anticipated.

The Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers incentive delivered by not-for-profit organisation VERTO, assists eligible Australians aged 45-70 access up to $2,200 in matched co-contributions to complete accredited training.

Victorian-based Remote Pilot (drone) training organisation, Suas Rov, couldn’t keep up with the demand from experienced, out of work pilots looking to reskill and regain control of their careers after the aviation industry was brought to its knees last year.

“As a small business, we were struggling to keep our own heads above water while others who had lost their livelihoods and were unable to meet the financial costs of our training,” Suas Rov Directors Siobhan and Joseph McMahon said.

“During the peak of unemployment due to COVID-19, over 40 per cent of our students were pilots who had recently been made redundant. In just one information webinar alone we had 44 pilots attend who were seeking work.”

The couple did their research and scoured the internet for ways to help. They found the answer in the Skills Checkpoint Program delivered by VERTO.

“The incentive significantly eased the financial burden so we could focus on retraining these people, giving them a sense of purpose and control when it was needed most,” said Joe McMahon, Chief Remote Pilot and Instructor.

“The remote aviation industry is growing, covering industries such as defence, emergency management, agriculture, construction and fire services. Many of our older and more experienced learners are going on to start their own businesses in these highly sought after industries.”

VERTO Chief Executive Officer, Ron Maxwell, said he is excited by the Australian Government’s announcement of the program’s extension until June 2022.

“Investing in our mature-aged workers is essential for our economic recovery and for our communities,” he said.

“Unfortunately experience tells us that often it is the senior workers who have been made redundant during the pandemic, but they also possess the most skill and knowledge, and given the opportunity to retrain, will play a significant role in addressing the national skills shortage.”

Suas Rov Directors Siobhan and Joseph shared the same sentiment.

“We admit we were anxious waiting for the news of the funding extension, as we know what good it can do for so many people,” Siobhan McMahon said.

“The ability to open up opportunities to retrain and potentially start a business in this booming industry has provided a huge confidence boost for many learners, particularly during COVID-19.

“It not only helped our business survive, but grow during an extremely testing year.”

You can learn more about the Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers program by visiting skillscheck.com.au or calling 1300 483 786.