ABC Radio Adelaide |By Brett Williamson | Posted 19 May 2017 If you lose your job past the age of 50, you are in the hardest age bracket to find work again thanks to age discrimination. A recent study by the University of South Australia’s Centre for Workplace Excellence confirmed there was a strong…
Being left ‘on the scrap heap’ the harsh reality for some older jobseekers
By Dominic Cansdale
Posted 29 Aug 2017
Social and employment groups have cautiously welcomed the trial of a new jobs program aimed at helping older Australians find work.
The Federal Government’s $110 million Career Transition Assistance Program is designed to teach people over the age of 50 how to better navigate the changing labour market, while also providing training in computer skills where appropriate.
The program is being rolled out in five trial sites across Australia, including the Victorian city of Ballarat, the New South Wales Central West region, Somerset in Queensland, Perth’s northern suburbs, and Adelaide’s south.
It comes after the then age discrimination commissioner, Susan Ryan, labelled unemployment among mature-age Australians as a ‘national disaster’ in 2013.
The trial will be rolled out by mid-2018, with a full national rollout expected in 2020.
Employers have an ‘attitude problem’
Factory worker Alan Davis lost his job in Ballarat at the age of 60 and spent the next five years unsuccessfully applying for hundreds of new roles before deciding to retire last year.
He estimates that out of the 600 applications he made he only got about 40 interviews, with many potential employers seeing him as inappropriate for the role.
“As soon as I walked in the door, they saw how old I was — you could see the mood change immediately,” Mr Davis said.
“They were obviously looking for younger people but couldn’t be bothered reading through your resume properly.”
Mr Davis said the constant rejection made him feel “awful” but that a training program for mature-age jobseekers could only go so far.
“I did interviews over the phone for Western Australia and all sorts of places, and you could hear the tone of their voice over the phone change as soon as they worked out how old you were,” he said.
“They’ve got a mindset where as soon as you turn 50 you’re over the hill, you’re on the scrap heap and that’s all there is to it.”
“Luckily I’ve got the support of my wife but I can imagine guys who haven’t got a partner or a wife to help support them under these circumstances; it’s very difficult.”
Involvement of industry and employers vital to success
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash is confident the Career Transition Assistance Program could help up to 30,000 mature-aged Australians get back into the workforce.
Senator Cash said the government was doing everything it could to ensure all people could get a job, regardless of their age.
Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash says the jobs program could help as many as 30,000 mature-age Australians find work. (ABC: Adam Kennedy) “It really doesn’t matter who you are, you need a job … the best form of welfare is a job,” she said.
“We are living longer and when you’re living longer, you’re going to need a job to sustain the lifestyle you have.”
But the Victorian Council of Social Service was worried the short, intensive course would not provide enough long-term job opportunities close to where people lived.
“My reservation is we’ve seen schemes like this before,” CEO Emma King said.
“It’s got an absolute chance of working, but we’ve got to work alongside businesses and local communities so that there are genuine jobs that exist.
“We know that our more mature workers have been hit hard, particularly as we moved from construction and those jobs haven’t been replaced with full-time, equivalent jobs.”
The business and development group at the Victorian trial site, the Committee for Ballarat, supported the program but was adamant that employers needed to be involved in how it was implemented.
“We need to know what the industry needs, and we need to identify those business opportunities,” chief executive Melanie Robertson said.
“We’ve got almost 12 months to get that right, and we will continue to work with government and those players to ensure that industry are absolutely involved with planning that process out.”