The focus on Australia's skills shortage is no doubt a serious challenge for our nation’s industries. For years governments, both State and Federal, have invested billions of dollars into higher and vocational education to address this shortage. However, to get the best return on this investment in skills, we need to ensure that those entering the workforce, transitioning or changing careers have access to the best possible advice and information on what career to pursue and the pathway to get there.
All too often we hear of the frustration of individuals undertaking training course after training course but yet fail to secure a job. An obvious way to minimise this frustrating conclusion is to ensure those looking to enter or change direction within the labour market receive good advice regarding job opportunities, the types of education, training and skills required, together with an assessment of whether a jobseeker has the interest, drive and aptitude for a particular role.
This type of advice in the form of high quality career counselling and guidance is critically important in ensuring individuals prepare for and ultimately find fulfilling employment.
While school career counsellors, job service providers and private career development advisors deliver varying levels of this advice, the quality can often be ad hoc and with variations in availability, access and cost. In addition, the 2014/15 Budget revealed the Abbott Liberal Government's investment in national, universally available career guidance in the form of both the National Job Guide and My Future website has been scrapped. This decision has left schools, parents and students with no national publicly funded resource to deliver career advice and guidance.
The Government still publishes the Labour Market Information portal on the Department of Employment's website, but the information published is of more interest to statisticians than to Australians in the throes of planning their career pathway.
Despite the lack of interest by the Abbott Liberal Government, there is growing momentum for attention, and investment in, good quality career advice as a way to ensure individuals are well informed of career opportunities, training requirements, and their suitability for available jobs. Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in their statement Learning to Work: A helping hand for young Australians identified career development as a critical element in ensuring young people are informed, and can match their interests and aptitude with the skills industry need.
The Foundation for Young Australians has also highlighted the importance of young people having access to high quality career counselling in conjunction with access to training to ensure they can enter the world of work. In a time when addressing youth unemployment is of both national and critical significance, it seems that good career advice could help in ensuring young people find their way into education and training and employed in in-demand jobs that satisfy their interests.
Understandably, school students undergoing the transition into working life are often the focal point for career advice, but it has also been argued that good quality career advice is just as critical throughout our working life. With the demand to work longer and an ever changing economy, individuals will have multiple careers throughout their working lives. To ensure that this adjustment is as smooth as possible it is clear that ongoing, good quality career counselling has a critical role to play, particularly when retraining and upskilling those in transition.
This issue has been considered by Australia's Aging Commissioner Susan Ryan who has suggested 50-year-olds have the opportunity to undergo a "career check-up" which would look at where they are in their career and provide advice about finding a new skills base if needed.
While the Abbott Liberal Government has abandoned its responsibility in providing any assistance in careers guidance, there is a critical need for those looking to enter or already engaged in the workforce to be informed. They need quality information about job opportunities as well as an understanding of industry expectations and any potential training that is required. Not only will this lead to individuals pursuing fulfilling and enjoyable careers but will ensure that government and private investment in training and education is targeted and an important step to addressing skills shortages in Australia.
Therefore the Abbott Liberal Government needs to reverse their short-sighted budget cut to career guidance to ensure that Australian job seekers have the best information available.
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