Look out­side the square

Stable jobs can be hard to find de­spite the tal­ent short­age, writes Vivi­enne Reiner

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Career One -

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.

Pic­ture: Richard Cisar-Wright

Ver­sa­til­ity: Adapt­abil­ity paid off for Jeanette Cameron (right, with An­gela Hume)

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