By Leon Gettler >>

BUSINESSES are getting to a post-pandemic normal, but many Australians are not comfortable getting back to work.

New research by Ipsos found that Australians are split on the issue of returning to work – with many worried about their safety.

Ipsos has been monitoring trends since February and, since May, it has seen a growing tension between a desire to open businesses and restart the economy mixed with concerns from people about leaving their homes,

The first survey found Australians were evenly divided with 49 percent saying too many people were at risk and versus 51 percent who said the risk was minimal and businesses needed to get moving.

They were also split on whether jobs lost in the lockdown would return with 47 percent saying they would return and 45 percent saying they would not return.

JOBS LOST FOREVER?

Globally, there were more people saying the jobs lost in the lockdowns would not return.

“The other interesting thing we saw was, both in Australia and globally, it was older citizens who were a bit more sceptical about the return of jobs,” Ipsos director David Elliott told Talking Business

“So we saw in Australia that 47 percent of that 45-74 year old group were suggesting jobs won’t return versus 37 percent of under 35s.

“The trend was the same globally. What we saw in Australia is we are probably less pessimistic about the return of jobs.

“The equivalent figures globally was that 53 percent of 45-74 year olds thought jobs wouldn’t return versus 45 percent of those under 35.”

GLOBAL SNAPSHOT

The Ipsos survey is done online across 16 countries with a wide-ranging questionnaire. The countries are Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Spain, France, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, UK, US and South Africa.

Mr Elliott said the data tied in with other questions about how long people thought it would be before the economy returned to normal. People said it would take a long time.

“Our latest data says globally and in Australia, 36 percent of people are talking about returning to normal in six months to a year, another quarter are saying one to two years and then you have another 10 percent saying it’s two or longer or never,” Mr Elliott said.

“That’s partly what drives that scepticism about jobs returning because no-one is seeing a quick turnaround from the pandemic economically.”

Ipsos also found 53 percent of people predicted they would make small changes to their daily lives and another quarter were saying they would do everything exactly the same.

The survey sends a clear message to governments, central banks and businesses about what people expect and need.

“I think what the community wants from government but also business is some messaging and reassurance that ‘We know how to get through this and we know how to keep you safe as we return to it’,” he said.

Mr Elliott said the issue for larger businesses was ensuring they could manage behaviours across all of their sites

“You talk to people out there and the experience they get in one particular banded store in one place is very different to the experience they get maybe 20 minutes down the road or half an hour on the other side of Sydney, so that raises questions and feeds back to this nervousness,” he said.

www.ipsos.com

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Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.  

By Leon Gettler >>

COVID-19 has created a major challenge for the gig economy, the growing number of workers abandoning traditional ‘nine-to-five’ employment in favour of working independently on a task-by-task basis for various employers.

It is also challenging the legal profession, raising a number of questions.

Gig economy workers are paid for when they work. COVID-19 has in some cases decreased the amount of work and in other cases increased it.

Leading Australian barrister Ian Neil SC said there are questions about where gig economy workers fall under the Federal Government’s various stimulus and support packages. 

“Those questions have not been adequately addressed, or at least fully addressed by the government in the announcements it’s made about those packages,” Mr Neil told Talking Business.

“The focus will be on determining where the gig economy workers fall for the purposes of the stimulus and support packages,” he said.

“To my mind, very many gig economy workers will come under at least some of the income support measures that the government has introduced. I think that will be sorted out administratively rather than legally.

“The trigger for many of the government’s income support measures depends on the amount by which a particular worker’s income has been reduced. Some gig economy workers will have increased their income, others will have decreased their income. There will be others in the margin between.”

NOBODY EMPLOYS GIG WORKERS

The point is that no company actually ‘employs’ gig workers. Legally, gig workers are not employees.

Some platforms like Uber came out with measures to support drivers who had lost the opportunity to work. This was instead of a measure like sick leave. Gig economy workers don’t have sick leave because they are not employees.

Mr Neil said the growth of the gig economy would put pressure on the legal system.

“But that’s the kind of pressure the law is used to dealing with, our law is very well adapted to dealing with new circumstances. Our is not a codified system so it is adaptable,’’ he said.

“How it will adapt? That’s another question.”

Mr Neil said there are now cases before the Fair Work Commission looking at whether some gig economy workers are employees. He said there are many features in their relationship with the people who acquire their services, as well as with the platforms, that point against them being employees.

“The law, in this and every other area, is going to be wrestling with the consequences of the COVID-19 emergency for a very long time, not just in relation to the gig economy but in relation to many aspects of commercial life and many aspects of employment as well,” Mr Neil said.

“Just think of the entitlement of employers to stand employees down without pay. That’s a whole species of question that the gig economy doesn’t have to wrestle with.”

TIME WILL TELL

Mr Neil said it would take the law several years to work through these questions.

“Work, as a type of economic social behaviour, is the subject of so much of our law and that law will have to wrestle with what’s happening now, unprecedented events really, for a very long time,” Mr Neil  said.

On the other hand, he said the economy is more adaptable to change than employment relationships.

“The latter are heavily regulated in our society, the former are much more dictated by the individual circumstances of the people who are working in the gig economy.”

www.leongettler.com

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness

ACS, the professional association for Australia’s technology sector, has welcomed the Federal Government’s JobMaker plan outlined by Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the National Press Club yesterday afternoon.

Equipping businesses, governments and students with an accurate picture of industry’s skills needs is an essential part of building a 21st century workforce, said ACS president, Ian Oppermann.

“The COVID-19 lockdowns have provided challenges to the entire economy and ACS has released several key initiatives supporting a wide range of areas to support the technology sector and our membership," Dr Oppermann said. 

These initiatives include cyber security and working from home technology guides, a career hub for ACS members, and a Virtual Tech and Employability Skills half day conference to assist those who are entering the technology workforce.

“Now, as Australia emerges from the COVID-19 lockdown, we are presented with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to position the nation so our businesses and citizens can take advantage of the Industry 4.0 era,” Dr Oppermann said.

“This was the thinking behind ACS’ announcement last year of an AI centre of excellence based out of our Melbourne Innovation Hub and early stage investment fund.

“However, in order to take advantage of these opportunities, we need a skilled and flexible workforce underpinned by a modern training system, something that has been highlighted by ACS’ annual Digital Pulse report."

The 2019 Digital Pulse reported three policy priorities for driving the growth of Australia’s digital economy: boosting skills, start-ups and investment, with the highest priority being skills development.

Last year’s report found the nation faced a shortage of 100,000 tech workers by 2024 on current trends while the direct benefit for individuals reskilling to fill these roles could potentially be an income boost of more than $11,000 per year.

The 2019 Digital Pulse also noted that while university completions in technology degrees had risen slightly, there was a significant decline of 11,875 VET sector technology subject enrolments since 2016, underscoring the Prime Minister’s call for refreshing the options available through vocational education channels, Dr Oppermann said.

www.acs.org.au 

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THE CORONAVIRUS pandemic has knocked travel and tourism industry workers for six, but a new training program that can retrain people for jobs in the data science and cybersecurity sector may get them back in the game.

Even though restrictions are starting to ease across many Australian states, t the travel and tourism industries are unlikely to see a ‘return to normal’ anytime soon. 

Many in these professions will find that with greatly restricted international travel -- and reduced demand for travel -- there will be a long hard road back to normality.

Despite this bleak outlook, job openings in data science and cybersecurity remain strong, with employers projected to increasingly demand these skills. This presents an unprecedented opportunity to retrain and reskill workers from struggling sectors to those where the need is greatest.

The Institute of Data has created the Airline Industry Retraining (AIR) scholarship program to transition workers in travel and tourism, who are struggling to make ends meet in the coming months, into the booming areas of data science and cybersecurity.

Airline industry analyst and author Geoffrey Thomas said, “The aviation industry has been dealt a body blow by COVID-19, particularly in Australia, where travel restrictions are rigorous. There will be major adjustments to the size of the industry in Australia in the short to medium term, with a return to pre-COVID-19 levels and growth not forecast till 2023 at least. 

"While the industry may be ready for take-off, passengers are very cautious and it will take significant fare cuts to get them in the air, which is not good news for full employment to pre-COVID-19 levels scenario," Mr Thomas said.

"In Australia it is estimated that over 100,000 people are employed in the industry (airlines and airports) with 700,000 employed in tourism. At the moment about 80,000 in the airline industry are directly impacted,” he said.

Following the runaway success of the Upskill Now! Scholarship Program with UTS, the AIR program provides scholarships of up to 75 percent of course fees for redundant and unemployed workers seeking to enter the data science and cybersecurity industry from a qualifying travel and tourism profession.

Workers within the struggling aviation and tourism industries have many applicable skills and qualifications that set them apart from others when it comes to retraining into these fields, according to Institute of Data executive director Andrew Campbell.

“The crisis isn’t over for workers in the travel and tourism sectors, and won’t be over for a long time," Mr Campbell said. "Through no fault of their own, many skilled workers will find themselves on reduced hours, reduced pay or ultimately made redundant.

"We urge workers in these sectors to consider the skills they currently have, and how they can build on them and transition to other areas of the workforce where demand will remain strong.

“Many skilled aviation and tourism workers have already been doing data modelling and analysis at work by using tools like Excel every day. Things like aircraft seat allocation, route planning etc. are primarily data-driven jobs, it’s a genuinely good foundation from which to build new Big Data or AI skills. For others in the industry, they’ve had to pass security checks and risk management courses that serve as great indicators for their applicability when working with sensitive data," Mr Campbell said.Andrew Campbell.

“That said, retraining into a new sector is no small feat. A career change is more than simply learning new skills and tools.

"We’re offering heavy scholarships to our retraining programs that focus on one-to-one career coaching from experts within the data science and cybersecurity industries. This means we can rapidly upskill Australians on the skills that matter to employers right now, as well as get guidance on where their talents are best suited within these disciplines.” 

SHORT CUT TO JOBS

Retraining programs often stop when the qualification is granted, leaving graduates to puzzle out what the next steps are to putting the new skills to use in the real world.

AIR is designed to help those who have been made redundant or unemployed through this crisis to get a new job quickly, skipping the learning curve of how to negotiate interviews in a new field.

For people retraining from the aviation industry, with income reduced by more than 30 percent, up to a 75 percent scholarship is available, Mr Campbell said.

There are limited scholarships available and they will be awarded on a first in first served basis. To be eligible peoplemust enrol into an eligible course after May 19, 2020, have experienced a recent redundancy or reduction of income of more than 30 percent from a qualifying travel and tourism role. 

Applications are open to all Australian and New Zealand residents and citizens. Standard application processes apply and eligibility criteria are:

  • 75% scholarship - 10+ years in travel & tourism and income reduced by >30%
  • 50% scholarship - 5+ years in travel & tourism and income reduced by >30%
  • 25% scholarship - 1+ years in travel & tourism and  income reduced by >30%

Recipients are entitled to three months full time or six months part time industry training in one of two practical skills training courses, either Data Science & Artificial Intelligence or Cyber Security. The courses cost $17,500 before the above discount is applied, and can be taken remotely from home whilst the nation is under lockdown and will revert to both on-campus and remote options when restrictions are lifted.

“Data is now the most important asset for every business, and the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted this fact to many businesses. How well you manage it, protect it and understand it can now determine whether a business succeeds or fails. This is what is driving the demand for jobs now and into the future,” Mr Campbell said.

“As more work is done online, cyber security experts are busier than ever protecting business from the new vulnerabilities associated with remote data access. The more talent we have in this field in particular. These are exactly the type of jobs that Australians should be training for right now,” he said.

The courses offered through the scholarship take 12 weeks to complete full time or 24 weeks part time with graduates receiving Industry accreditation from the Institute of Data and a University Certificate of Completion.

The AIR Scholarship Program is designed to help applicants manage a career transition into these growing industries.

For eligibility criteria and more information, visit https://www.institutedata.com/courses/air-scholarship-program/

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MALE Champions of Change (MCC) have released their annual Impact Report (FY2018-19) detailing progress and outcomes in achieving gender equality, advancing more women into leadership and building respectful and inclusive working environments for all employees.

The report is believed to be one of the largest, voluntary public disclosures on gender equality in the workplace globally, representing 230 men and women CEO and Board-level leaders and organisations operating across 155 countries.* 

The results show collective year-on-year improvements on gender equality in every major employment category (see page 3 for more detail). Other key outcomes across the MCC coalition include:  

  • 81.5 percent of members have achieved or improved gender balance overall; 
  • 82.9 percent have rates of women’s promotions that are either gender balanced or greater than women’s representation overall;
  • 74.6 percent have achieved gender balance in recruitment that improved women’s representation in the past year; 
  • 62.4 percent have achieved or improved gender balance in key management personnel – roles such as chief financial officer and chief operating officer which are often on the critical pathway to CEO and board-level positions. 

According to Male Champions of Change founder Elizabeth Broderick, the results show the impact of collective action from the top to accelerate change on gender equality, together with clear opportunities for improvement.

“We need more intentional and disruptive work on the issue of sexual harassment and while that has commenced across the coalition, we keenly await the findings of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces being led by Commissioner Kate Jenkins," Ms Broderick said.

"Similarly, achieving gender-balanced executive teams and more women in CEO-level positions requires ongoing focus,” she said. 

More generally, according to Ms Broderick, the report shows the immense power of more than 200 organisations with national and international reach acting together to shift entrenched workplace systems that have served as barriers to women’s advancement.  

“What we’ve found is that making work more accessible and inclusive for women, is delivering wider benefits for organisations, teams and employees," Ms Broderick said.

“For example, 89.2 percent of MCC members now provide flexible access to parental leave through policies which recognise and celebrate the role of each parent in the care and development of their children.  

“88.1 percent of MCC members are supporting employees to better manage their work and life commitments through flexibility strategies that are available to all. Here, what we’ve found is that - when combined with enabling technology – flexibility can build employee engagement and improve workforce participation amongst a wide range of groups who might otherwise be excluded,” Ms Broderick said. 

At an aggregate level, MCC members are well-ahead of the national average on many of the lead indicators that are measured in the latest scorecard from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA). For example, 77 percent of MCC organisations are conducting and acting on regular pay equity audits compared to 44.7% of organisations that report to WGEA (see table).

 The 2019 MCC Impact report also: 

  • details work undertaken over the past 18 months by MCC members to better understand and address the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace; 
  • describes major initiatives led by specific MCC groups on issues such as the under-representation of women in the STEM sector and pay equality for elite women athletes;
  • provides a detailed account of progress on women’s representation across all levels for participating organisations; 
  • shares case studies from organisations across a range of sectors, including large and smaller businesses; 
  • demonstrates how coordinated action impacts performance on gender equality.  

Commenting on the report, chair of Manufacturing Australia and Male Champion of Change said,  “The progress we have made affirms for me the impact we can have when: men step up beside women on gender equality; the most senior leader makes gender equality a strategic business priority; there is sustained focus; and we collaborate outside our usual networks for new and different solutions."

The MCC Impact report is aimed at all those interested in advancing gender equality and tracking progress of the MCC strategy. 

The 2019 MCC Impact Report  (Click here for Summary Report

*The Philippines and Insurance groups are new to the MCC coalition and will be included in the MCC Impact Report in 2020. 

**For full transparency, and where possible, MCC benchmarks its data against results arising from the 2019 Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) Scorecard. The WGEA scorecard is the result of compliance reporting by Australian private sector employers with more than 100 employees, and is a globally-unique data set, now in its sixth year of publication. While not completely alike due to our international and public sector members, we believe this is a useful comparison to include.

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By Peter Hamilton >>

IN EARLY 2019, Australia’s unemployment rate reached its lowest level in nine years at 4.9 percent. Despite the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) forecasting further decreases, rates instead have been slowly increasing and we’re expecting to sit at 5.1 percent at the end of this year.

According to the RBA, Australia’s drought, bushfires and international health threats, such as the coronavirus, are impacting consumer spending and employment opportunities. As a result, the RBA has revised forecasts, with wage growth declining to 2.2 percent in 2021, preparing workers for a period of stagnant income growth.

With Australian businesses across all major industries facing slower employment and wage opportunities, business leaders urgently need to look at strategies to strengthen resilience, mitigate risk and adapt during these uncertain times.   

 

Meeting change with agility

In 2020, more than ever, Australian businesses must review current strategies and undertake new approaches to talent resourcing. In fact, our new report Agility to Adapt to the Future of Work revealed that the majority of Australian business leaders believe that an agile talent strategy is critical to future successes.

Ninety-six percent of Australian C-level executives agree that stronger talent yields strong business performance.

The report explored the key forces that impact talent management as organisations adapt to shifting economic environments. It found that the contingent workforce has established itself as an important work arrangement and source of talent.

 In fact, 85 percent of Australian leaders agree that some of their best talents were found through the contingent workforce. In addition, 40 percent of Australian organisations have a contingent workforce that makes up more than one third of their total workforce.

 

Deliver talent exactly where it’s needed

An agile workforce is critical in adapting to the organisational business cycles of today. But changing to meet the needs of the business and remaining nimble is hard, and it comes with an element of risk.

You need to consider tapping into a wider pool of talent such as the contingent workforce.  

Local businesses are recognising the benefits of offering alternative work arrangements as skilled talent seek control over their career trajectories.

The majority of Australian leaders (88 percent) recognise that the best talent wants to organise work around their life. To remain competitive, organisations should grant greater flexibility and autonomy to those who want it.

Contingent workers consist of freelancers, independent contractors, micropreneurs, small-business owners and temporary or contract workers. They bring extensive experience to the workforce.

Our report found that 68 percent of Australian businesses are looking to source skills through this alternate strategy.

In larger organisations, many roles are becoming increasingly specialised. Highly trained individuals through the contingent workforce can be brought in to meet a specific technical or business need to fill essential skills-gaps that the permanent workforce cannot.

 

Invest in un-tapped ideas

As we experience a slowing economy, businesses can benefit from the new skills, opportunities and agility contingent workers can bring.

Despite the benefits of contingent workers, particularly in today’s economic climate, only half (53 percent) of Australian business leaders are proactively engaging in strategies to ensure these team members are embedded into the organisation.

Organisations should take the time now to review their hiring policies, attract the best talent and integrate them deeper within the organisation.

Embracing a non-traditional recruitment strategy opens organisations up to un-tapped talent, new ways of thinking and innovative opportunities for 2020 and beyond.

 

Author Peter Hamilton is the vice president and regional director, Asia-Pacific,for KellyOCG, a global provider of workforce strategy, solutions, and operations with expertise across every aspect of the talent supply chain.

The KellyOCG Agility to Adapt to the Future of Work study was conducted with more than 200 C-suite level executives across the Asia-Pacific region – including Australia, Singapore, India and Malaysia – from industries such as banking and financial services, business consulting, information technology, engineering and architecture. www.kellyocg.com

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THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said vocational education and training (VET) providers need to engage more with small businesses, amid declining use and satisfaction rates.

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research recently released the 2019 Survey of Employer Use and Views of the VET system, which found small business employers using the VET system fell from 47.5 percent in 2017 to 44.percent in 2019. The report also showed small business satisfaction with the nationally accredited training fell from 80.7 percent in 2017 to 76.7 percent in 2019. 

“Small businesses have identified a number of reasons for the drop in satisfaction levels with VET,” Ms Carnell said. “They’re primarily concerned there’s not enough focus on practical skills and that the level of training does not meet their needs.

“It’s clear from these statistics that VET professionals need to consult with small businesses so they train the right people with the right skill set.

“Small businesses employ the highest number of people in the Australian workforce, including apprentices, but more than 40 percent continue to experience some level of difficulty in recruiting skilled workers," Ms Carnell said.

“It’s important that VET providers understand the need to be flexible in their approach to training workers, even if that means tailoring courses to match the skills needed by small businesses.

“Instead of concentrating on whole qualifications, they should provide a range of short courses to build a skill set that is relevant to the small businesses in their community," she said.

“If training organisations genuinely engage with small business employers, new markets will open and enrolments will grow.”  

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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