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Deakin takes softer approach to help older adults get back to work

To keep up with the push to see Australians stay in the workforce for longer, older jobseekers will brush up on their soft skills through an Australian pilot.

Deakin University has invited older adults looking to get back into the workforce to be part of the program, which will see them undergo free professional skills and expertise assessments before being matched with relevant employers.

The university will assess participants against its Professional Practice credentials, which project leader Dr Nick Patterson said are recognised core employability skills.

“These credentials focus on so-called soft skills such as critical thinking, teamwork, problem solving, communication, digital literacy, self-management and innovation,” said the lecturer in Deakin’s School of Information Technology.

“Once five of these have been completed – equivalent to about 12–15 hours of online assessment – the participants are matched with a job recruiter to help get them back into the workforce.

“We see this as a great way to meet growing employer demand for workers with … soft skills, which can be effectively adapted to the vast majority of roles and workplaces.”

On the push to help older jobseekers develop soft skills, Patterson pointed to a recent Deloitte Access Economics report, Soft Skills for Business Success, which held that soft skills and personal attributes are just as important to success for modern employees as formal qualifications and technical skills.

Its authors wrote: “Deloitte Access Economics forecasts that soft-skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030, compared to half of all jobs in 2000.

“The number of jobs in soft-skill-intensive occupations is expected to grow at 2.5 times the rate of jobs in other occupations. That’s a big workforce change.”

Deloitte compared this shift to other major trends in the history of the workforce, like the shift from ‘blue collar’ to ‘white collar’ work, and the growing participation of women in the workforce.

“By recognising these important skills with official credentials, it takes the guesswork out of hiring new staff,” Patterson said.

“Employers can make a much more informed hiring decision because a prospective employee’s soft skills have already been assessed independently by Deakin.”

The program is particularly focused on helping people in situations that make it harder to find a hob, such as people living in areas where there are few jobs available, or where major companies or factories have closed or relocated overseas.

“The primary aim of this project is to reduce Melbourne and Geelong’s unemployment rate for older people, and increase workforce participation, by highlighting those really transferable skills that are a great asset in any workplace,” Patterson said.

“If we can show that this has a positive effect on getting older people back into the workforce, then we hope this kind of credential program could be integrated into wider jobseeker support.”

Applications for the program are open to people aged 40–65 living in Melbourne or Geelong who are currently unemployed.

Patterson can be contacted via email [email protected]

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