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Dog's breakfast of Corporate Champions

By Malcolm King - posted Friday, 1 March 2013


If you haven't heard of the Corporate Champions project, you're not alone. This $15.6 million initiative has been in pilot for two years. It was meant to be the Commonwealth Government's main strike weapon to induce businesses to retain and hire older workers and job seekers.

It only recently went to tender to get more consultants to deliver the program. Unfortunately the Prime Minister Gillard's recent announcement of a September 14 election has doused enthusiasm for employers to become Champions. Why line up to join a program, which will take time and resources, only to find it will be scrapped when the Coalition is elected?

80 percent of Job Services Australia providers and recruiters know nothing about the Government's suite of mature age initiatives. Most businesses have never heard of the Corporate Champions program. It's staggering that the Government has not promoted the relevance for businesses to update their hiring and retention practices, as two million Boomers transitions to retirement.

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Over the last 12 months, the Government has scrapped three important mature age initiatives: Experience+ Training, On the Job Support and Job Transition Support. This was in spite of the findings of the 2012 Consultative Forum on Mature Age Participation that poor physical health, age discrimination, recruitment practices, and a mismatch of skills and experience with employer demands, were the major barriers to employment for mature age people.

On the Job Support was an excellent program aimed at helping older tradies and labourers find new ways to work so they didn't have to 'bust their guts' in their late 50s and 60s. If you work 'on the tools', and you're over 55, chances are you're carrying a work related injury. The idea was to ease them off hard labour and into less physical work.

The defunct Experience+ Training program allowed provided training (at the Certificate III level or above) for mature age workers so that they could get skills to successfully mentor and supervise apprentices or trainees. The Government was going to pay employers almost $5000 per employee to hold on to their best workers and train them up. The program wasn't promoted and withered on the vine.

A shadow also hangs over the new $25.8 million Experience+ Mature Age Participation - Job Seeker Assistance Program, which seeks to give mature-age job seekers, job preparation skills and computer training. It has sat on the drawing board for almost a year. The Government has left the mature age push too late in the election cycle to be effective. One of the major barriers to employment for the 50+ demographic is Government inaction.

The terminated mature age programs are examples of failing to implement key initiatives with urgency. How many times have we seen good initiatives go belly up because of internecine bureaucratic wrangling, going late to tender or flip-flopping on objectives?

I have researched and written about the post-war generation since 1992 and was an academic at RMIT working in the area of creativity and adult education. It is incredible that the Government's laidback attitude to population ageing and the potential for fiscal gap between income and domestic outlays has such a low priority.

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A 2012 Deloitte Access Economics report found that that if participation among workers aged 55+ was boosted by three per cent, gross domestic product would rise by $33 billion, or about 1.6  per cent of national income. That's a fairly optimistic projection but it will only happen if both the Government and private sector shake some action now.

We need to get more than 80,000 older unemployed job seekers back to work to lighten the load on the public purse and for their own dignity and respect. How important is getting a job? It's everything. We also have about 111,000 mature age workers who want, and are available for, more work hours than they have. That's more than 200,000 unemployed and under employed older job seekers and workers who are willing and able to work and work more. What a waste!

Here's the good news: statistics show that over the past decade, more Australians in there 60s have kept on working. This has little to do with government policies and more to do with the "cohort effect". Working Boomers turning 60 have moved in to an age bracket when they used to retire but now they are working on. There has also been a dramatic increase in female participation too.

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About the Author

Malcolm King works in generational workforce change. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University. He also runs a professional writing business called Republic.

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