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Skills can be a vital resource

WITH life expectancies increasing and superannuation funds taking a battering due to stock market downturns, people are being forced to work longer.

Thanks to the redundancy craze of the 1990s, when middle management was sacrificed in the quest for greater efficiencies, the chances of people over 45 securing employment are diminishing.

However, falling birth rates and the ‘baby boomer effect’, when a lot of baby boomers decide to retire, will make those in this demographic eminently more employable.

There has even been talk of companies using older staff as mentors.

According to Swinburne University’s Louise Rolland, who spoke at last month’s Power of Wisdom Conference in WA, Australia’s birth rate is falling despite an increasing life expectancy.

At the present time there are 170,000 people joining the workforce each year. It is expected this number will fall to 125,000 for the whole decade of 2020.

Bell Personnel managing director David Anderson said a lot of over 45s were finding it hard to find new employment.

“A lot of them are middle managers who were removed during the redundancy craze,” he said.

“My personal view is employers are overlooking a lot of good experience and skills.”

Mr Anderson said that, over the past 15 years, there had also been a change in the way a person’s length of service to a company was viewed.

“If a person had stayed in the same job for 15 years he or she was thought of as stable. Now that length of service seems to work against people,” he said.

Don’t Overlook Mature Experience’s Bob Dunn said he believed the situation could be improving.

“Some employers are realising that they have to look after over 45s or they will have employment gaps in their firms,” he said.

“We’ve had a slowing of enquiries for our services and I’m not quite sure what that is. Hopefully it is a positive thing.”

Mr Dunn said the stock market crash had meant early retirement was not the viable option it had once seemed.

“The message we’ve been trying to get out is employers need to keep over 45s employed or they won’t have employees,” he said.

“I’ve not come across the concept of firms using mature staff as mentors but I think it would be a good idea.”

TMP Worldwide eResources career advisory manager Bob Southwell said companies already were using people as mentors.

“These are the organisations that already have mentoring programs in place within the organisation,” he said.

Mr Southwell helped organise the Power of Wisdom conference.

“The idea was to highlight the issue to employers. We had the chairman of Telstra speaking and he said he had no idea of the extent of the problem his company could face because of the failure to retain older workers,” he said.

“We’re telling employers it is good to look at retention and succession planning. Companies are now starting to realise that it costs a lot of money to keep people.”

Mr Southwell said teaching was one of the professions likely to feel the worst of the baby boomer effect.

“That’s why there have been a lot of recruitment campaigns in this area,” he said.

Mr Anderson said one of the problems facing mature people on redundancies was the rush to take their redundancy payouts and enter small business.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people choose businesses that don’t suit them,” he said.

Other companies that have embarked on vigorous retrenchment campaigns using monetary incentives to remove older staff are also taking a fresh look at the benefit older staff members can provide.

Westpac Bank has in recent months indicated that it would take affirmative action to try to increase its older workforce. A Westpac spokeswoman said the bank’s new Joondalup Call Centre, employing around 300 staff, would be filled mainly with older people.

“That recruitment will specifically outline opportunities for older people,” she said.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, about 10 per cent of the labour force is over the age of 56.

The number of people over this age has grown to 12 per cent and is expected to grow to 25 per cent of the nation’s population in the next 50 years. At Westpac only 3 per cent fit into this age bracket.

“We have recognised that people prefer to discuss their retirement plans with someone else their own age,” the spokeswoman said.

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