April 24, 2011

AUSTRALIA: "Hiring mature-aged workers is a solution to skills shortage and ageing population"

HOBART, Tasmania / The Mercury / News / April 24, 2011

By Hannah Martin

EMPLOYERS need to get over prejudices about older job seekers, says the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Chief economist Mark Bowles said hiring mature-aged workers was both a solution to Tasmania's skills shortage and inevitable because of our ageing population.

Mr Bowles said figures from the Australian Chamber of Commerce estimated 85 per cent of workforce growth in the next decade would be for workers over 45.

"Given Tasmania's older demographic profile, the number of people over 45 to hit our workforce may be even higher," he said.

But Mr Bowles warned some employers needed to make an attitude adjustment and stop making "prejudiced judgments" about older workers.

"There are employers who think mature-age workers aren't IT-literate but there are older workers who have really embraced technology," he said.

"Employers will need to invest in up-skilling and re-skilling training to meet the needs of an older workforce in some instances but there are plenty of success stories of older people who do retrain and go on to have successful careers."

Mr Bowles said older workers brought valuable life skills to a company.

"They might be working in a completely new area but they can nevertheless tap into a wealth of experience and can play an important role in mentoring younger people who are just entering the workforce," he said.

Older workers needed to have realistic expectations about pay rates when starting out in a new industry.

"Once upon a time, pay was determined by your age," Mr Bowles said.

"It didn't matter how competent you were or what your job was, you were simply paid according to your age. Businesses can't afford that any more, they need to pay a standard rate for a particular job."

Searson Buck recruitment firm chief executive Stephen Porter said a lot of people affected by government job cuts were likely to be mature-aged.

"A lot of older workers are looking for work not because they want a new job but because they've been made redundant," he said.

Mr Porter said employers were slowly realising the advantages of older workers.

"Young people tend to change jobs every year or two, where older people tend to be a more stable resource," he said.

"What we're seeing is less concern about age and more focus on the capacity to do the job