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Bridging the skills gap with mature age apprenticeships

Bridging the skills gap with mature age apprenticeships

Mature age apprenticeships may be the key to bridging the impending skills gap.

A national skills shortage is looming on the horizon, which has encouraged a mixed reaction from business leaders across Australia.

Persistent skills shortages have inspired the Australian Industry Group to urge the government to increase the annual migrant intake.

However, Engineering Australia has spoken out against this endeavour, instead expressing a belief the nation should ‘mobilise more of its own workers before looking overseas’.

In a December 18 report to the Productivity Commission, Engineering Australia revealed one issue contributing to the engineering labour shortage is skilled workers moving into fields other than those related to their qualifications.

“In 2011, the comparable figures were 263,890, with 163,912 or 62.1 per cent in engineering occupations. In other words, over one third of qualified engineers were employed in work other than engineering,” the report said.

One measure to attract qualified workers back into their relevant fields could be to offer mature age apprenticeships.

If a skilled employee has been working for an extended period of time in a industry unrelated to their qualification, they may require the opportunity to re-skill and re-train in a certain field.

Mature age apprenticeships give Australians aged 45 and over the chance to return to a known industry, or pursue a completely new career.

Many older workers face barriers to employment due to age-based discrimination or family commitments.

Overcoming these disadvantages is an important step in bridging the impending skills gap, particularly if employment can be sustained beyond the official retirement age.

This measure is especially important as the senior population is the fastest growing age group in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The proportion of people aged 65 and over grew by 3.7 per cent over the past year, compared with just 1.4 per cent growth among the working age population.

Seniors now make up 14.4 per cent of the total population. This is 3.3 million people who have passed the official retirement age.

“The baby boomer generation is a large group of people, and the older age group will continue to grow in size as the boomers progressively reach 65,” ABS spokesperson Bjorn Jarvis said in a December 17 media release.

Additionally, research from the the UK Association of Employment and Learning providers found mature age apprenticeships are important for helping people aged over 50 to find gainful employment.

Since the introduction of an expanding adult apprenticeships program in London, more than 34,000 people aged over 50 have found employment through an apprenticeship, according to a January 5 report from The Telegraph.

By Leanne de Toerkenczy, Public Relations Coordinator

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