Posts Tagged “olderworkers.com.au”

Older Australians could be the beneficiaries of a plan to address a shortage of workers.

Federal opposition leader Peter Dutton has called on the government to double the amount that age pensioners can earn before their pension payments are affected.

Speaking with reporters, Mr Dutton said that lifting the Work Bonus amount at which pensioners begin to lose benefits from $300 to $600 could help alleviate the labour shortage facing businesses.

Currently, those receiving the Age Pension can earn up to $180 per fortnight for singles, and up to $320 per fortnight for couples, on top of the Work Bonus amount, before their pension payments are reduced.

“This is about those who want to work and do an extra day or two … and for it not to affect their pension,” Mr Dutton said.

“I really think it’s a policy that the Albanese government should pick up because the economy demands it now.”

Read: Retail body pressures government on Age Pension work rules

Mr Dutton said Treasury had costed the plan at around $112 million annually, and it would be reviewed each year if implemented.

In a rare show of potential bipartisanship, new Treasurer Jim Chalmers told the ABC’s Insiders program that his government was open to the idea of easing the rules, but he had concerns about the cost of the program.

“When it comes to this issue, I’ve had good, productive conversations with National Seniors and others about whether or not we can do something here,” he said.

“The truth is, in a budget which has got that trillion dollars in debt, we’ve got to weigh up all of these ideas and work out where we can get the best bang for buck.

“Because even an idea like this, which appears to be relatively modest, it still comes with a relatively hefty price tag.”

Mr Chalmers said the idea would be on the agenda at Labor’s ‘jobs summit’, set to be held sometime before the October Budget.

Business groups applaud the plan. Innes Willox, chief executive of national employer association the Ai Group, says encouraging older Australians back to work will bring decades of experience back to the economy.

“Tens of thousands of Australians now receiving a pension can potentially make a huge contribution to the workforce with their skills, experience and mentoring,” he says.

“Our policy settings need to move with the times and allowing older Australians to work more is one way of easing the labour pressures on business.”

Employers may say they support older workers returning to work, but are businesses willing to hire them?

EveryAGE Counts campaign director Dr Marlene Krasovitsky welcomes initiatives to break down structural barriers to older people working, but says we also need to break down attitudinal barriers given the prevalence of ageism among employers.

“Recent research by the Australian HR Institute revealed 47 per cent of Australian businesses say they are reluctant to recruit workers ‘over a certain age’,” says Dr Krasovitsky.

“For more than two-thirds of the group admitting to ageism, that ‘certain age’ was over 50. So the chances of an over-65 getting a fair go in a job interview is extremely slight.

“If we want to harness the unquestionable value of over-65s in the workforce, we need to look ageism squarely in the face, admit that it’s a problem, and work hard to break it down.

Source: yourlifechoices.com.au

Harold, who is the store’s oldest team member, started working at the Canberra airport store when he was 87.

In celebration of his recent 91st birthday, the Bunnings team have shared a bit about his inspiring life story.

“Harold started his career at 16 years of age as a fitting and machinery apprentice, went on to become a mechanical engineer by trade and has worked across a wide range of industries during his career – such as sales, operations, maintenance and industry safety,” a post on the Bunnings LinkedIn page read.

At 91, Harold is Bunnings’ oldest staff member. Picture: Bunnings/LinkedIn

At 91, Harold is Bunnings’ oldest staff member. Picture: Bunnings/LinkedIn

Harold now mainly works at either the tool shop register or one of the front registers.Sign up

The 91-year-old believes the best thing about working at Bunnings is his team, saying he always appreciates how they regularly check-in with him to see how he is going.

“His favourite Bunnings memory is having over 400 team members acknowledge his birthday on Bunnings’ internal social network, and was blown away by the response and the well-wishes,” the post read.

The team at the Canberra Airport store all love Harold’s “humble nature” and “go-getter energy”, adding he is always ready to contribute to projects and tasks.

Harold also offered some advice to those considering rejoining the workforce later in life, saying his view is that you are “never to old” to work.

“He joined Bunnings when he was 87 and believes that age should never be a barrier, as you should focus on your strengths and capabilities,” the post read.

“Harold also adds that many customers, as well as his team, appreciate the experience and knowledge of older team members.”

Harold started working at Bunnings when he was 87. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Mariuz

Harold started working at Bunnings when he was 87. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Mariuz

Earlier this year, Bunnings claimed the award for Australia’s strongest brand after the chain saw an influx of customers keen to work on DIY renovation and gardening projects during Covid lockdowns.

Woolworths and Officeworks were awarded second and third place for strongest brands in a new report from Brand Finance Australia.

Its rankings are based on analysis of company’s marketing investment, familiarity, loyalty, staff satisfaction and corporate reputation.

The hardware giant was recognised for its outstanding public perception in terms of quality, innovation, value for money, loyalty and customer service.

Bunnings managing director Mike Schneider credited the team for providing friendly and helpful service every day, despite difficult circumstances.

“Even during a really challenging period for all Australians, the resilience, care and support our team have demonstrated is testament to the importance of creating a people-first culture, and why our team remains the heart of the Bunnings brand,” he said.

Source:News.com.au

New research into the treatment of older workers shows that many mature-age employees report experiencing discrimination in the workforce due to their age, and believe they are not receiving the same opportunities provided to other workers.

The research found there are more instances of older employees being laid off compared to their younger colleagues, while a stigma remains around their competency with technology and openness to change. Older women in non-managerial roles, working part-time or on a casual basis are more likely to report experiences of aged-based discrimination.

The research is part of a joint initiative by the Council on the Ageing (COTA) NSW and Challenger and is aimed at addressing the underemployment of people over 50. Importantly, the research considers the issue from the perspective of both Australian employers and employees.

Read: Age discrimination to cost $6 billion per year

“Australia’s mature-aged workforce is skilled and able – and older people are healthier than at any other time in history,” said Meagan Lawson, chief executive officer of COTA NSW. “But due to stigma and discrimination, there are fewer employment opportunities for people aged over 50.”

Key takeaways from the research include:
  • Many employers are unaware of age discrimination in the workforce but are willing to do something about it once it has been identified.
  • Businesses need support to understand how they are tracking, and the steps they can take to improve employment of mature workers.
  • Older workers believe a change in attitude by employers would help them financially and emotionally.
  • There’s a great diversity within mature-aged workers.

Ageing of the workforce is a critical challenge for the economy. In 1976, there were seven working people for every non-working person. In 2016, that had fallen to four to one, and according to the NSW Intergenerational Report, it will be two to one by 2056.

The benefits to individuals and the community go well beyond finance. Workforce participation is linked to better health outcomes and other positive well being indicators. But the research shows many mature age workers feel they don’t get a fair go, with excuses ranging from over-qualification and younger managers feeling threatened, to poor cultural fit and being bad for the corporate image.

“There is significant value to individuals, the community and the economy in supporting older people to work as long as they wish,” said Challenger chief executive officer Richard Howes. “Increasing workforce participation for older Australians will not only help improve overall well being but also contributes to financial security for a better retirement.”

Half the employers surveyed for the research believed they were doing enough to support older workers. While most employers have general workplace bullying, discrimination and equal opportunities polices in place, only a minority had specific policies that covered age discrimination in detail.

“Older workers should be more valued for the expertise, skills and experience they bring to the workplace, and building awareness around the issue of age discrimination with employers and employees of all ages is a key opportunity,” Ms Lawson said.

COTA NSW and Challenger are developing a toolkit to help employers implement age-friendly practices. It includes improved education for managers to address unconscious bias and improve hiring practices, as well as programs to help promote flexible working arrangements and anti-age discrimination policies. The toolkit will be available later in the year and will include initiatives to forge stronger connections between workers of all ages within an organisation and how to better train mature-age jobseekers.

“While not all older workers are the same, some uniform initial steps should be taken to address the issue of age bias,” Ms Lawson said. “There needs to be better education and training, more rigorous internal policies and structures, greater cross pollination among workers, and better access to job opportunities for older workers.”

The report is available at www.cotansw.com.au

Source: Yourlifechoices.com.au

The share of the workforce aged 55 or over may be increasing, but that doesn’t mean older Australians are not facing significant barriers and discrimination.

A new national survey has revealed that ageism is on the rise in Australia, with 37 per cent of over-50s now reporting having experienced ageism, which was up from 33 per cent in 2018.

The Council on the Ageing’s (COTA) State of the Older Nation report also revealed 26 per cent of respondents had experienced employment-related discrimination since turning 50 – up from 22 per cent in 2018 when the last survey was conducted.

Last week, YourLifeChoices reported that the share of the workforce aged 55 plus has more than doubled from 9 per cent in 1991 to 19 per cent in 2021 and is projected to reach 40 per cent by 2050.

However, older Australian advocacy group EveryAGE Counts believes the figures from the COTA study show that ageism is becoming a “national crisis”.

EveryAGE Counts campaign director Marlene Krasovitsky said these worrying trends show that ageism is no longer an issue that can be ignored.

“Too many are accustomed to laughing off incidents of ageism as relatively trivial, but we know it’s doing real damage to millions of Australian lives,” Ms Krasovitsky said.

“The fact that 37 per cent of Australians over 50 have been discriminated against should be considered a national crisis. And to see ageism on the rise since 2018 is particularly alarming.

“Most Australians are living longer, healthier lives. Yet ageist attitudes and practices continue to exclude, diminish and marginalise older people. Workforce discrimination, for example, hurts not just older Australians, but the entire community and our economy.”

Ms Krasovitsky said until people started recognising the problem, ageism would continue to rise and that could have a serious impact on people’s health.

“Changing social norms is never easy, but it starts with acknowledging the problem as serious,” Ms Krasovitsky said. “We need to stop shrugging off incidents of ageism and start calling them out.

“The World Health Organization recently found older people who hold negative views about their own ageing will live 7.5 years less, on average, than those with positive attitudes.

“How can you not develop negative attitudes when over a third of Australians over 50 are being discriminated against, and the rest of us are forced to see and hear ageist views on a daily basis?”

While the State of the Older Nation report had some alarming figures on age-based discrimination, it also showed that only 49 per cent of those aged 65 had retired, which was down significantly from 2018 when 60 per cent had retired.

Also, the proportion of people aged 65 to 69 who said they wanted more paid work has doubled from 2018 (15 per cent to 31 per cent)

Those figures may reflect that the Age Pension eligibility age has also changed in that time, but does also demonstrate that older Australians are staying in the workforce longer, but are not getting as much work as they want or need.

According to the survey, 25 per cent of those who are still working do not think that they will ever retire, which was up slightly from 24 per cent in 2018.

Source: Yourlifechoices.com.au

As Australia’s vaccination rate heads towards meeting important targets, economists are no clearer on how the shockwaves caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will play out in the months to come.

There are fears that as business slowly starts to pick up around the country, growth will be slowed by a significant labour shortage, with many older workers, who may have lost work, choosing not to return to the workforce.

A CommSec Economic Insight analysing detailed labour force data has found that lockdowns in NSW and Victoria have scrambled the figures, but appear to point to many older Australians not returning to the workforce.

The report explains that prior to the pandemic, one of the major reasons that Aussies were not employed or looking for jobs was that they had retired and were out of the job market.

 In April 2018, a record 38.7 per cent of people aged 65 and over said that they were ‘permanently not intending to work’, which was a significant increase from the 33 per cent that answered that way in September 2014.

Prior to COVID-19, the figures showed a reassessment, with the proportion of those not in the workforce because they were retired falling from 38.7 per cent to a three-year low of 35.3 per cent in July 2019.

The effect of COVID hitting shortly after this change has made it impossible to determine if this was the start of a trend, the CommSec economists explain.

That is because more people left the job market over lockdown periods because they were not employed but were not looking for work because they were likely to return to their employer when businesses reopened.

That meant that the proportion of those not in the workforce because they were retired hit a record 39.9 per cent of the total in June 2021 and this has since fallen to a low of 36.4 per cent in September 2021.

“If more people are electing to retire, then there are fewer potential workers to fill positions,” Mr James said. “That may mean the job market tightens more than generally expected, putting upward pressure on wages and prices. And that is especially the case if foreign borders stay closed.

“Older Aussies may see greater health risks in being in the job market in the COVID era. And still others may elect to live large given the experience of the past 18 months.

“At this stage data still shows that older Aussies are active in the job market with record participation levels. However, peak levels may not be far away.”

Earlier this year, ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott said that employers should turn to older Australians to address labour shortages.

Mr Elliott explained that ANZ had found older workers more effective in customer service roles and better able to empathise with customers in difficulty due to more life experience than younger workers.

In November last year, a research discussion paper commissioned by Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) said that the proportion of workers over 65 would settle at around 28 to 33 per cent and that over-65s would never outnumber younger adults.

Source:Yourlifechoices

If you’ve just come out of yet another stint of working from home through a lockdown, and you’re feeling both physically and mentally exhausted, you are not alone.

During the pandemic, 85 per cent of employees globally experienced higher burnout and nearly half reported having worse work/life balance.

If your boss is behaving like the last two years were just a bump in the road and is asking you to turn your attention to chasing down new targets and performance goals, you are not alone. 56 per cent of CEOs are gearing up for growth next year.

For many of us, it will feel like reaching the finishing line of a marathon, then being asked to start a triathlon.

The unrelenting pressure on already burnt out and psychologically damaged knowledge workers has prompted a phenomenon called ‘The Great Resignation’, and it will lead to the biggest movement of talent that Australia, and the rest of the world, has ever seen.

Aussies are sick of being overworked and are on the lookout for new opportunities. Picture: iStock

Aussies are sick of being overworked and are on the lookout for new opportunities. Picture: iStock

Fight or flight: is your job a threat to your wellbeing?

The question that keeps coming up is ‘why’? Why are we feeling this way? Why does it feel like it will be easier to just cut and run?

It’s ironic that in a time when our lives are so reliant on technology, the answer is somewhat primal.

When exhausted or threatened, people go into fight or flight mode, and most knowledge workers will know this feeling.

We fought hard to save our jobs and our way of life from the economic threat in front of us. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Australians and their APAC colleagues have worked longer hours, taken on more additional tasks and worked on days off more than in any other part of the world.

Now, as the dust settles, the economy improves and the breadth of job opportunities increases, people are reflecting on their experiences. The perceived need to be ‘always available’ for work without any additional recognition, respect or reward has many realising that work itself is now a threat to their happiness, health, relationships and mental outlook.

Decompression will send employees out the door, unless work culture changes

This instinctive human response to threats makes room for bold choices that will play out in one of two ways, but both ultimately end with a mass movement of talent in the workforce.

Many workers in Australia feel their relationship with their job is irreparably broken and will flee from what feels like a toxic relationship. For others, the simple desire for change, to say, “it’s not you, it’s me” and draw a line under the past two years will be overwhelming.

Homeschooling and the pandemic have made people reconsider their work/life balance.

In the coming months we’re likely to see an emancipation on a scale we’ve never seen before as people change roles or start entirely new careers.

If this feels like you, be aware that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Starting a new role, establishing new networks and developing new skills takes time and energy, of which Aussies have precious little.

On the other hand, others will choose to fight for the life and lifestyle they feel they now deserve. Flexibility, respect and purpose will become the minimum employee demands.

Organisations who do not meet those needs will lose staff. Those willing to embrace radical flexibility, human-centric work design and progressive social causes will become talent magnets.

It’s worth reminding your boss of this if you choose to have a discussion about the future of your role. The best place to start is examining what you need to change about your job and be firm about what you’ll accept as minimum.

It also needs to be said that the luxury to reconsider a job or entire career is reserved predominantly for knowledge workers who enjoy a higher-than-average sense of economic stability. Many lower-paid or frontline workers will not have the luxury to make these decisions.

Rewriting the social contract: the rise of the four-day work week?

When economic conditions swing wildly in the favour of workers, it tends to pave the way for massive societal change. Take the introduction of the 40-hour work week, or how WWII paved the way for women to enter jobs previously reserved only for men.

We’re seeing the same thing in 2021. With the job market heavily favouring jobseekers, the premiums being offered to secure talent make a job change are an alluring prospect for most workers.

Combine that with an increased desire for flexibility in a role and Australians’ willingness to change jobs, and companies will be forced to come up with solutions that don’t involve a pay rise.

Imagine staying on the salary you’re on, but only working four days. Sounds appealing, right?

Whether you choose to flee or to fight for better, the future of Australia’s work practices are in your hands. There’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Australians to transform how we work and seize the lifestyle we want, but it won’t come from a job-switch alone.

As we enter this new era, it’s important to remember that we work to live, we don’t live to work. Prioritise your wellbeing and be clear with your employer about what you need. After the last two years, we all deserve at least that.

Aaron McEwan is a behavioural scientist, coaching psychologist and vice president for global research and advisory firm, Gartner | @aaronmcewan

Source: News.com.au

 

New research of Australia’s older workers has found that experiences of age discrimination in the workplace have almost doubled in the last five years.

According to the Australian Seniors Series: Ageing in the Workforce 2021 report, one in five workers (20.7%) aged over 50 has encountered age discrimination in the workplace – twice as many compared to 2016 (9.6%). Just over 40% say they have felt patronised in the workplace because of their age.

Despite the prevalence of ageism, more than three quarters of Australians aged over 50 want to keep working indefinitely and almost 90% of retirees plan to re-enter the workforce. Finance was identified as the biggest reason, followed by missing their job, boredom and a lack of social connection.

Speaking at a recent virtual roundtable, attended by HRD, industry experts discussed the new findings, sharing common misconceptions and ways to address ageism in the workplace. Tai Mavins, social research expert and consulting partner at Mymavins, said the events of the past 18 months have made things even more difficult for older workers.

“Over one in two seniors feel that Covid has made it harder to get work, and close to one in five feel that recent events have impacted their retirement plans, so it’s bringing a lot of uncertainty into their working life,” Mavins said. “In response to this, we actually see that one in four seniors admit to trying to make themselves look younger in the workplace or when they’re applying for jobs. That includes things from dying their hair, wearing the latest fashion, getting the latest haircut and makeup styles.”

Older workers are also becoming increasingly proactive at upskilling to keep up with advancing industry trends, with many branching out into new career paths.

“We found that close to three in five seniors plan to or already have reskilled or sought further training to improve their prospects since turning 50,” Mavins said. “What’s probably most interesting about that is as many as half of those people who are looking to reskill have done that in new areas, so they’re really expanding their horizons and moving beyond past roles.”

The research shows that the appetite to work and to continue learning is there. Like many nations, Australia has an ageing population, and the rising cost of living means people are working till later in life. So how do HR leaders address the causes of age discrimination and foster a truly inclusive workplace?

Humphrey Armstrong, an organisational psychologist at Lifelong Learning, said much of the problem stems back to commonly held misconceptions, like older employees costing more, being more difficult to train, or being resistant to change.

“I think one of the fascinating things is that emotional intelligence, or emotional capabilities actually increase with age well into a person’s 70s,” he said. “In terms of resistance to change, I think if older people know why change is needed and how to change they are prepared to jump on board.”

Armstrong pointed out that twice as many start-ups are initiated by over 50s than people in their twenties. Clearly, there is a huge amount of value in the learned knowledge, intuition and life experience of an older worker. But for a workforce to be inclusive of all ages, ageism needs to be more widely talked about, Armstrong said.

“We hear a lot about gender diversity, especially over the last few months, but in fact, age diversity is often ignored. We’ve got to actually bring that in and really reinforce the issue,” Armstrong said. “Research studies show that diversity is an incredible advantage in organisational life, it increases profitability, creativity, enhances governance, and it also enables better problem solving.

“And as mentioned, emotional intelligence can increase with age so there’s this huge resource where older people are, in fact, very valuable and very skilled at handling tricky interpersonal problems and generally they are better able to cope with ambiguity.”

Lisa Sinclair, editor-in-chief at DARE Magazine, said she’d like to see more organisations introducing policies to support women going through menopause and acknowledge the pressures on the “sandwich generation” who may be supporting both elderly parents and older children. There are also simple measures to improve inclusivity during the recruitment process.

“I would love it if companies in general stopped advertising for unicorns, which are these mythical creatures that have 15 different boxes to tick,” she said. “I mean that’s hard enough for any age but I think it could be particularly confronting for the over 50s who might be put off for applying for jobs just because there’s one element they don’t meet.”

Source:HRD

older worker

 

Australia’s chronic skill shortage has been even more acute since the breakout of COVID-19, and the broken record from businesses across all industries is the lack of skilled workers. In the age of emerging technologies and the rapid rate of change, it is natural for employers to gravitate to the younger (‘techier’) generation.

But younger workers are in short supply, shown by the decline in Australia’s birth rate over the last 30 years. Since 1976, Australia’s total fertility rate has been below replacement level and in 2019, the ‘total fertility rate’ was 1.66 versus its peak of 3.55 in 1961.

So, should astute hiring managers be looking towards the relatively untapped resource presented by the 19.4% of our workforce over 55 years of age? Over 55-year-olds also represent a significant 38.5% of the population above 19 years of age. With a current combined life expectancy of 83 years, a 55-year-old has many working years ahead of them.

Are older Australians up to the job?

If you are worried about performance, research shows no difference in performance between older and more youthful workers.  A key strategy for workforces globally is to reskill and upskill their existing workforce, and older workers are equally able to adapt and learn new skills. Scientific evidence shows that ‘for most people, raw mental horsepower declines after the age of 30, but knowledge and expertise – the main predictors of job performance–keep increasing even beyond the age of 80.’ Some businesses persist in trying to source talent from the ‘younger generational’ pool – their age bias can be that strong! In a recent study, 31% of Australians reported experiencing a form of discrimination, with ageism topping the list. But if employers were to rethink their approach when it comes to older workers, they would soon find themselves with a valuable talent pool.

Skills displayed in older workers

Still not convinced. There are skills older workers have that their younger counterparts may not possess. Older workers have wisdom. Wisdom cannot be learnt from books or virtual learning scenarios. It is acquired over time from life experience, knowledge, and tried and tested judgements. Valuable insights, meaningful contributions, and good decision making are some of the benefits.

 Mentoring enhances training programs and represents a valuable and different dynamic for mentees. We have lost some of our formal and traditional structures with changing societal norms and, with that, real role models. Acting as role models based on values and life achievements, they can nurture younger workers and share general and professional knowledge, experience, and life lessons. Mentoring creates trusted relations, increases employee engagement and retention, provides inspiration, encouragement and helps diversity.

Patience and tolerance are not just needed but expected for all workplaces. Learnt patience comes with time and less of a need to prove yourself. Being comfortable in your skin brings confidence, more prevalent in mature workers. Having tolerance in accepting people’s views and differences positively impact the team environment, bringing increased inclusion, cooperation, and collaboration. Patience also leads to better self-regulation skills benefiting team dynamics.

Over the years, mature employees have worked with various types of co-workers and managers and learnt how to handle different personality styles and work environments. Their interpersonal skills are well-honed. Their perceptions and understanding of behaviours are deeper.

We have all worked with those special, reliable employees who have seen it all before and know how to weather the latest storm. In our current times of increased uncertainty, rapid change and the collective anxiety brought on by COVID, it makes sense to employ stable, mature, wise individuals who can act as emotional anchors and help us navigate turbulent waters.

For the first time, Australia’s workforce includes five different generations. It opens up a learning opportunity and creates better business performance. As a final point, before you continue to dismiss ‘older workers’, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), older workers are those 45-65 years of age. Now, who is an older worker?

 

Source: Womens Agenda

Senior Advisor Bequest

RMIT’s latest mature aged graduates are today celebrating the value of lifelong learning as they receive qualifications to work in the aged care and disability services sector.

The 31 graduates aged in their 50s, 60s and 70s were the first cohort to complete the Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing and Disability).

The 12-month course was developed to support unemployed mature workers over the age of 50 through accredited training and job placement in the aged care and disability services sector.

It’s one initiative as part of the Reach, Train and Employ Project led by the Council on the Ageing (COTA) Victoria in partnership with RMIT and Good Shepherd Australia and New Zealand.

RMIT’s Future Social Service Institute (FSSI) Director, Micaela Cronin, said the course aimed to increase employment opportunities for older Australians in a vital sector, supporting older people and those with disabilities in the community.

“Opening doors and creating effective pathways for those in our community who face barriers to training and employment is vital to growing a diverse and highly skilled social service sector and is a core part of the work that we do,”  she said.

news-Micaela-CroninRMIT’s Future Social Service Institute Director, Micaela Cronin says opening doors to training and employment in the social services sector is vital.

Graduate Sharyn Ciberlin, 53, has now found work as a personal carer, after being in and out of work since 2018.

After an initial career as a chef, that included working for the military and various hospitality venues, Sharyn had more recently been working at a school supporting teachers in the classroom and teaching kids to cook.

However she said it was doing voluntary work for Melton Council taking elderly to their appointments and then supporting a friend who had a stroke that made her realise she also had a flair and passion for personal care and supporting others in the community.

“This course and new career feels like a wonderful fit for me. The people I support, they value and appreciate me and I love to support them, especially as my life experience and knowledge adds to my contribution to the aged,” she said.

“Also being over 50, and having worked as a chef in the past, I was looking for a job that was less strenuous physically and one that suited my skills and qualities including compassion and empathy for others.”

Sharyn emphasised the importance of choices and opportunities to re-educate yourself as people get older.

“This program is really clever as it’s addressing two issues in our community: employing older workers and focusing on supporting members in our community including the aged and people with a disability,” she said.

“You do hear about homeless levels for people over 50 or that we can be slotted into the ‘too old’ category for some roles.

“It can be especially challenging for our generation of women who have had to care for our family, elderly and young and may have had time out of our careers to do this.

“It’s so important to keep ourselves re-educated and to fit in with the current work needs, especially if we’ve had to step out of work for a time.

Graduate Sharyn Cyberlin has embraced the opportunity to retrain and begin a new career in her 50s.Graduate Sharyn Cyberlin has embraced the opportunity to retrain and begin a new career in her 50s.

For Sharyn, learning new digital skills throughout the course was something she wholeheartedly embraced too, as COVID restrictions meant it was taught mostly online.

“I absolutely loved learning, including the technology aspects, and I enjoyed helping others in the course who weren’t so confident in learning the new skills or grasping the technology needed to complete the program,” she said.

And she is quick to point out the merits of education opportunities for all.

“My biggest passion is choice. I think everyone should have a choice about the paths they can take,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter where you are or what stage of life you’re in, people need to have their choices valued and heard.”

Having already secured casual work with two home service agencies, Sharyn is now looking forward to finding permanent work and using her skills to support others now she’s graduated.

“I always tell my clients, ‘I’m here to help and I am here for you’ and I like to ask them, ‘How can I help you?’ Even if it’s just to be a listening ear sometimes, I know this work is valuable.”

COTA Victoria CEO, Tina Hogarth-Clarke, said the inaugural program was a great success with graduates now working closely with COTA Victoria to look at job opportunities.

“The Victorian Aged and Disability sector is in desperate need of quality candidates and we have a group of very enthusiastic graduates who are ideal for these positions. It is a great outcome all round.”

The program was supported by the Try, Test and Learn Fund – an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

Story: Kate Milkins

Age discrimination is a recurring issue in the job recruitment market. Many workers over 50 are primed, qualified and looking for employment. Matt Higgins is from olderworkers.com.au, Australia’s only national job board connecting older job seekers with age-friendly employers.

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