Look outside the square
Stable jobs can be hard to find despite the talent shortage, writes Vivienne Reiner
IF YOU are looking for work and keep missing out because of the number of ‘‘ highcalibre applicants’’, don’t take it personally. Despite the current skills shortage and for all the talk of there being a ‘‘ war for talent’’, it is not the case everywhere.
The good news for employers is that there are many people willing and able to work, should they look outside the square.
Skilled people who may find it hard to get jobs include the mature-aged, immigrants and women who have taken time out from the workforce to be carers. With people over the age of 50, or even from the mid-40s, the difficulties can be exacerbated by a perception that they could be difficult to manage, or lack the technological know-how to work in a modern setting. And it doesn’t help that HR workers, the first point of contact for many potential employees, are often in their late 20s or early 30s.
There can also be a perception that parents wanting to return to work who have favoured part-time or flexible arrangements may not be committed to the job. However, employers are increasingly open to the idea of flexible hours, with some encouraging a healthy work/life balance as a way of keeping employees happy and productive.
Finding satisfying, full-time or stable employment can be hard. And although the economy is robust, people wanting a career change should be patient: employers are not necessarily less picky. In fact, some may draw out the recruiting process to get a person with the right ‘‘ fit’’.
While there are high across-the-board levels of demand for workers, areas exist where there is actually a skills oversupply.
Senior industry analyst Mark Ganz from strategic business information provider IBISWorld says there are three key areas that are experiencing an oversupply: agriculture, wholesaling and various parts of manufacturing.
In agriculture, the effects of the drought are made worse by increasing automation. Wholesaling is struggling because there is a tendency these days for retailers to deal directly with manufacturers. In manufacturing, jobs are going overseas as companies shift plants to countries with cheaper labor costs.
But with a national unemployment rate of less than 5 per cent there are many opportunities in other areas, and the outlook is good for the next five years: ‘‘ The picture is good for 95 per cent of the market.’’
It is an outlook the Minister for Workforce Participation, Sharman Stone, concedes. She advises employers struggling to fill vacancies that assistance is available across a range of special needs groups, including the spectrum of people with disabilities. And there are numerous links on dedicated government websites to specialist jobplacement agencies as well as to tailored advice for both employers and job-seekers. Preemployment training can be organised, and employers may access wage subsidies while new workers settle in: ‘‘ There’s an enormous amount of government support all trying to assist a business to move forward,’’ Stone says.
Stone, who describes the employment landscape as lumpy, says there are 2.5 million people of working age on welfare, many of whom would make ‘‘ very able employees’’.
Dale Simpson is executive director of career management consultancy EPR, which has worked with government and corporations, and also mentors executives who want a change of pace. Simpson has a positive outlook, saying there is still time to avoid a long-term skills shortage. ‘‘ Certainly the information we are getting is it’s more about a skills imbalance,’’ Simpson says.
However, he says unless government, employers and individuals change their behaviour, the skills problems will remain. It is important for employers to focus more on retaining staff by offering attractive conditions and hiring people who will stay for a long time, Simpson says.
Mature-age workers fill a niche because they tend to have a low turnover rate and are often happy to downshift, so employers do not have to work so hard at offering career progression.
While it can take some time for organisations to change entrenched behaviour, job seekers can take matters in their own hands by ensuring they pursue a career that is right for them. But they have to do their research: ‘‘ There are so many people out there that know they’re skilled, but they have no idea where they can apply them (their skills),’’ Simpson says.
He warns that there is no set timetable for people wanting to move in a new direction. To increase the chances of success, Simpson suggests job-seekers work on skills such as networking, since most jobs are not advertised, and interview technique. People who try to prove to an employer that they are right for the job set up an adversarial situation. Instead, the interview should be approached like a conversation.
Versatility: Adaptability paid off for Jeanette Cameron (right, with Angela Hume)