One of the key factors highlighted within the Government’s White Paper on Jobs and Opportunities has been the need to overcome barriers to employment across the nation. These barriers come in many forms, and usually impact our most vulnerable community members, including First Nations people, women, migrants, youth and neurodiverse Australians.
To address these barriers, a holistic approach to identifying and supporting vulnerable individuals is required. At the same time, employers are encouraged to consider unique and innovative approaches to hiring and onboarding diverse talent.
The way we recruit in this country has remained unchanged for decades, and these hiring processes hinder, in many ways, rather than help organisations across our nation. There has never been a better time for employers to adopt a more strengths-based hiring approach, that looks beyond the headlines of credentials and institutional biases.
In November, Generation Australia will join representatives from Microsoft and Accenture, to start asking the right kind of questions around the barriers currently faced by so many prospective employees – Australians who would prove to be active, engaged workers if they had access to the right opportunities.
It is time for employers across the nation to decide whether a qualification is truly required or relevant to the success of entry-level employees. Time and time again, we hear employers telling us that graduates from our traditional education pathways are not ‘work-ready’ and need training in the real skills of the job. However, at the same time hiring processes require specific credentials to even make it to the first stage of the recruitment process. This in itself immediately disregards candidates who can quickly be trained in the necessary technical skills of the job and also bring a multitude of transferable skills and diverse ways of thinking that would provide a much more immediate and productive answer.
There is no doubt that TAFE, Universities and private RTOs have a huge role to play in solving the skills crisis in this country. However, this shouldn’t be to the exclusion of more specialised organisations that are able to offer a greater level of personalised support to our more vulnerable members of the community, that are perhaps not suited to traditional pathways, but bring a multitude of skills and capabilities that with the right nurture can provide immediate value to employers across the country.
Fast-tracked, industry-led programs, supplementing the traditional TAFE and university model will support our more vulnerable communities. This tactic, whilst simultaneously assisting organisations to shift their approach to recruitment, will help pathways to careers emerge for community members across Australia. Australians who are currently waiting to be noticed, and are capable of filling desperately needed roles across the nation.
Our tech sector is a prime example of an industry that needs to look beyond the traditional hiring practices that exist in this country. It is currently number two on the National Skills Priority List and the Australian government has highlighted the need for 1.2 million tech jobs by 2030. To meet such an ambitious commitment, we need to seek alternative recruitment methods.
A report released earlier in the year, Launching a Tech Hire Revolution surveyed employers across the US, UK, Germany, France, and India, and refreshingly revealed many organisations across the globe have removed some of the requirements for entry-level tech jobs, revolutionising their operations, and providing them with access to a diverse range of candidates. While we have seen some organisations lead the way in Australia, we are lagging and need to move quickly if we don’t want to be left behind.
Can we change the narrative for parents reentering the workforce? Can we consider the problem solving skills they have developed whilst raising a family, (often surpassing an employee with five years plus experience); instead of considering them ‘out of date’ or ‘lacking contemporary skills’.
Employers and hiring managers need to shift the question from the more negative connotation of…
“What adjustments do I need to make to accommodate this individual?”
“What environment can I provide that will allow this person and the team to flourish?”
Whether applying this lens to parents returning to work, neurodivergent Australians, First Nations people or any other cross section of our community, the same applies. While short term adjustments may be required, the evidence of increased productivity and outcome is readily available for all to see.
To solve the national skills shortage, we cannot, we must not, apply the same model as we have before, which has effectively led to little progress.
We talk about diversity and inclusion, but unless we start to make real changes, it is exactly that – just talk. We need to shift the conversation away from stigmatised ‘weaknesses’ of different groups within our society, to thinking about a much more personalised view of the strengths a candidate brings to the role.
Malcolm Kinns is Chief Executive Officer at Generation Australia.