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Diversity the key to skills shortage

Wednesday, 29 August 2007
By Print 21 Online Article

Guest speaker Dr Sharman Stone, Federal Minister for Workforce Participation, provided a positive insight into the benefits of a more diversified workforce, and outlined the various assistance measures available to printing  companies offering employment opportunities to various groups within the  wider community.

Dr Stone was joined by Paul Dickinson from Plus40, a national employment,  training and advocacy service for Australians aged 40 and over. His theme  centred around encouraging employers to look at the pool of workers aged  over 40 not because it is smart for business, but because it is  becoming an essential labour source for the future.

Both speakers cited falling birth rates and the projected concentrated loss of  workers during the next few years with baby boomers retiring en masse as a  real challenge for business in planning for its future.

"The  pool of young workers is shrinking," Dr Stone said. "We need  to fill that gap but similar shortages in other developed countries like the  UK and US mean it’s just not possible to do that with skilled  migration.

"The  best answer is to increase workforce participation among the 21/2 million  Australians of working age who are not currently employed.

 "As  a government, we have made it a priority to look at ways to encourage greater  participation through tightening the rules around disability support and  unemployment to ensure people who can work are encouraged to do so.

"We  have also introduced a range of measures to make it easier for businesses to  employ from these groups, including contributing to workplace modifications,  pre-employment training or retraining, the provision of wage subsidies, and  even integration training for existing staff."

While  it was impossible for Dr Stone to address each under-represented group individually,  she urged business leaders to ‘put aside the stereotypes’ and  investigate groups such as indigenous workers, older workers, and people with  disabilities.

"The overwhelming challenge for printing businesses in future will be to attract  and retain people with the skills and capacity they require. Next time you’re looking to fill those vital vacancies, I would encourage you to  cast your net wider and take advantage of previously untapped and  under-utilised groups to build a successful future," she said.

This  view was supported by Mr Dickinson, who said the labour market was changing  so rapidly that printing business must prepare themselves or suffer even more  severe staff shortages in the future.

"While the pool of young  workers is shrinking rapidly, the good news is that for every young worker  coming onto the market today there are seven or eight job-ready workers in  the 45+ age group," he added.

Dickinson said that many of the perceptions about this group – that they are more  expensive, less flexible, harder to train and more likely to leave or retire  – were completely false.

"Older workers are actually less concerned about money, and more likely to want  flexible workplaces where they can make a positive contribution and have  their skills and experience valued. They generally bring a much higher level  of skill and experience to their work, are keen to learn and extend those  skills, and they are statistically far more likely to be with your company  for a long time," he said.

One of the major challenges for all graphic arts businesses in future will be the ability to attract and retain good staff. The message at the Printing Industries CEO’s forum, from both government and private sector, is clear: Diversity is the key to future success.

Further information on how to increase diversity at work can be found on the federal  government’s JobAccess website www.jobaccess.gov.au and  at the Plus40 website, www.plus40.com.au

(Pictured l-r) Ron Patterson, Printing Industries, general manager – Victoria  and Tasmania, and national sales manager; Paul Dickinson, organisational  psychologist from Plus40; Dr Sharman Stone, federal minister for Workforce  Participation and Ray Keen, Victorian regional council president.

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