Doubts that older worker bonus will make a difference

by HCA09 May 2012

New data has revealed that despite the persistent skills crisis many employers are overlooking the capabilities of older Australians to help fill the gap in workforce skills.

The finding comes as the Federal Government’s Jobs Bonuses scheme for mature aged workers is poised for rollout from July 1. The scheme promises $1,000 to employers who provide a worker aged 50 or over with a job for at least three months.

The annual Australia’s Skills Gap survey, conducted by the Australian Institute of Management (AIM), canvassed the workplace practices of more than 1,500 Australian organisations. It was found that 77% of organisations have a gap in their workforce skills, yet few of these organisations are trying to fill the gap by utilising the experience of mature aged workers to mentor younger members of staff. Key statistics from the report included:

  • Just 3% of organisations with a skills gap use baby boomers in mentoring or coaching roles.
  • 21% of surveyed organisations had programs in place to access the skill sets of retirees or former long-term workers.
  • Of those organisations that have avoided a skills gap, the most nominated reason was ‘a strong commitment to training and development’.
  • Similarly, for those organisations with a skills gap, ‘training and development’ was named as the number one solution to fix the problem.
  • The skills most lacking in Australian organisations were:
    - Leadership
    - Process and project management skills
    - Technical and industry specific skills
    - Communication/interpersonal skills
    - Managerial

Overlooking older and experienced staff to fill a skills gap is nothing short of a ‘blindspot’ for HR, according to Susan Heron, CEO, AIM. “There’s a huge upside for our nation’s skills hungry employers if they can better tap into the experience and capabilities of older Australians,” Heron said. “When you consider the many millions of dollars that Australian organisations have collectively invested over the years in developing the skills of mature aged people, it’s clear they should be seeking a greater return on their investment.”

Mature aged Australians, whether they’re in the workforce or have retired in recent years, have a wealth of knowledge and job ‘know-how’ that can provide savvy employers with a competitive edge. Older Australians have also spent their whole careers developing a network of personal business contacts that can be used to advantage by an employer. Heron added that the skills crisis isn’t going anywhere and will be a long-term reality for Australian organisations because of the nation’s resources boom and ageing workforce.


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  • by Carole Goldsmith 9/05/2012 2:18:45 PM

    Hi and I am an older worker (still feel 35) and I cannot keep up with the jobs and opportunities in Aus and globally......

  • by Heidi Holmes 9/05/2012 4:10:50 PM

    I own and operate, a leading job board for mature workers and while the $1000 may not be an incentive for larger employers, we have had an increase in enquiries from SMEs wanting to tap into this talent pool. Not just because of the cash, but because of the experience and loyalty mature workers bring to the table. Regardless of the success of the Jobs Bonus, it has increased the exposure around this issue and will hopefully lead to an increase in organisations including this audience in their recruitment strategy.

  • by Shane Higgins 9/05/2012 5:20:46 PM

    I own the only national job board in Australia that has jobs specifically placed by employers looking for older workers - officially over 45's. We have over 17,500 registered jobseekers over the age of 45 ranging from low skilled to highly skilled professionals and over 1300 age-friendly registered employers. We don't believe the incentive will make a big difference at all to employers in relation to whether or not they will consider an older worker in their recruitment strategies, however it is better than nothing and it continues to keep the issues facing older jobseekers at the forefront. There is no one solution to age discrimination faced by older jobseekers, and governments need to try a variety of solutions in their efforts to address the issues. We have the largest number of registered older jobseekers and age-friendly employers in Australia for a specialist job board, and already we are seeing higher numbers of small, medium and larger corporations interested in engaging with older workers. We are confident that as awareness of the ageing population, and therefore the ageing workforce, continues to be raised,along with the skills shortages and labour market shortages, that employers will continue to realise the benefits of recruiting and retaining older workers. Many of our larger employers continue to actively seek older workers to ensure they have a healthy diversity in their workplace. Unfortunately the AIM survey confirmed what we already know; not enough businesses have business plans that will ensure they are competitive in the years to come. If they continue to lock out the over 45's in their recruitment exercises, they will automatically discount a large proportion of applicants.

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