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Improving your job prospects as an older person with disability

A new pilot program based in Western Sydney is aiming to assist older Australians with disability in enhancing their work prospects through improving their digital literacy abilities.

The SkillRestart pilot program will upskill older workers with disability to assist them in finding jobs. [Source: Supplied]
The SkillRestart pilot program will upskill older workers with disability to assist them in finding jobs. [Source: Supplied]

Run by disability employment provider AimBig Employment, SkillRestart aims to challenge stereotypes and is looking for participants for the pilot program. The program started in April in New South Wales and will push to a national level in the future.

A recent review of the Australian retirement income system found that nearly 20 percent of Australians between the age of 55 and 64 were receiving a form of welfare payment, either JobSeeker, the Carer Payment or the Disability Support Pension.

The review also highlighted that it usually took much longer for older Australians to find a new job than younger job seekers, due to a reluctance from businesses to hire older workers, and people with lower wealth and education levels were more likely to be forced into an early retirement.

General Manager of AimBig Employment, Terry Wilson, says that the focus on digital literacy and confidence can be critical for older Australians, and in particular those living with disability, when seeking a new job.

"We really wanted to focus the program around mature workers because we know they are being left behind. They have so much experience to offer but can lack confidence when it comes to technology," explains Mr Wilson.

"This limits them from a lot of opportunities and it also is also a shame for businesses to miss out on a pipeline of excellent talent

"Being in a program with other people that are a similar age puts everyone in the same boat. AimBig Employment coaches are there every step of the way to build the confidence of participants and the necessary skills to take up work-from-home opportunities, which we see as a major growth area."

SkillRestart has been designed to equip participants who have experienced deskilling due to long-term unemployment and provide them with the tools and experience to competently use commonly used software and remote collaboration tools.

The program also opens up opportunities for work-from-home jobs, such as admin, data entry or call centre rolls. AimBig sees these areas as having large growth in the future.

Mr Wilson says, "It is easy to feel left behind with today’s rapidly changing workplace technology and software, particularly if you never worked in an office environment or have experienced a break in employment.

"SkillRestart is designed to get people up to date and ready to work in work-from-home roles or office-based environments. Work-from-home roles in particular are a major growth opportunity and likely to suit people with disability.

"The program addresses a number of challenges. Firstly, many mature age workers are sadly overlooked by employers due to ageism and a perception that they lack the skills to work in a modern workplace.

"Secondly, while some may have basic IT literacy skills, they may not be at a sufficiently advanced level. Many are referred to existing certifications, however, we believe that these courses do not adequately prepare individuals for working in a collaborative, modern workplace using up-to-date digital tools."

SkillRestart runs for 12 weeks and is a practical, hands-on group training program. Participants will work towards a Certificate III in Business (26 week course duration) and are also able to work with businesses throughout the training to get practical experience.

SkillRestart is currently looking for mature workers with disability to participate in the pilot project. 

To be eligible to participate in the pilot program, participants need to be over 50 years of age and have a disability recognised by the Department of Disability Employment Services.

AimBig believes the program would suit people who have been long-term unemployed and have had limited exposure to modern office software, as well as mature age workers who are transitioning from blue-collar roles to work-from-home or office-based roles for health reasons.

Mr Wilson is looking forward to the start of the pilot program and to see how much of an impact the program will have on older workers with disability.

"Unfortunately, the odds are unfairly stacked against mature Australians with disability, but employers can get so much from this group if they are willing to give them a chance. They have skills and life experience that they have developed throughout their working life," says Mr Wilson.

"The business case for hiring people with disability is very strong - people with disability generally take fewer days off, take less sick leave and stay in jobs longer than other workers. They also ensure that your team best reflects the community in which it operates. They are an untapped resource and can be hugely beneficial."

Local businesses are also encouraged to get involved in the program by offering practical experience to participants. This could include outsourcing administration tasks like data entry or call centre work. 

For more information about SkillRestart, head to the AimBig Employment website.

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