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Category Archives: skill shortage

Kevin Naughton
 
May 1, 2012

EVERYTHING that can be done, has been done, says the head of the state government’s Olympic Dam Taskforce as it waits for BHP Billiton to give the green light to the mine’s proposed expansion.

“Everything is lined up nicely for this decision,” Resources and Energy Department deputy CEO Paul Heithersay said yesterday.

A formal commitment to proceed from the BHP board would trigger billions of dollars in associated infrastructure projects. A board decision is expected mid-year.

Mr Heithersay addressed hundreds of miners, explorers and contractors gathered at the Hilton Hotel for the “2012 Paydirt” SA Resources and Energy Investment Conference.

“Everything the government can do is done; we have completed the EIS and Indenture processes,” he told delegates.

Heithersay said BHP Billiton was already spending “around $20 million a week on pre-commitment projects”, such as expansion of the road from Port Augusta, and engineering design work and earthworks.

Other projects included:

  • 270km of electricity transmission line;
  • 400km of gas pipeline and a gas-fired power station;
  • 105km of railway to be built from Pimba to Olympic Dam;
  • a sea landing facility south of Port Augusta for the unloading of heavy machinery;
  • an airport, complete with solar power and a 737 jet capability;
  • a 10,000 person camp as well as expansion of the Roxby Downs township; and
  • upgrades to Adelaide and Darwin harbours.

Earlier in the conference, Mineral Resources Minister Tom Koutsantonis repeated his “elephant” analogy, used in a recent presentation overseas.

“South Australia is poised to take its place among the titans of mining – not just in Australia but in the world,” Koutsantonis told delegates.

“In Olympic Dam we have tracked down an elephant, we are still in the hunt for the rest of the herd.

“These are exciting times, but they are also challenging times for our State.

“We need to manage our transition into a global mining giant in a way that benefits all South Australians.”

The minister also announced the successful applicants for exploration subsidies under the Plan for Accelerating Exploration, a subsidy program that dates back to the SA Exploration initiative (SAEI) in the early 1990s.

“Twenty-six mineral and petroleum exploration companies spread across South Australia will share about $1.7 million funding from the State Government,” he said.

Under its newer name PACE, it is to be expanded into a series of other collaborations including energy and water, subject to government funding approval.

The importance of Olympic Dam to the economy had earlier been underlined by Oz Mineral’s managing director Terry Burgess when he told delegates a recent set of job ads for work at nearby Prominent Hill had attracted 3000 applicants.

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From: AAP January 11, 2010 11:40AM

THE number of jobs advertised in major newspapers and online rose by 6 per cent in December, the strongest monthly growth in two-and-a-half years.

Overall job ads averaged 149,063 a week, with newspaper job ads rising by 11.6 per cent and internet job ads increasing by 5.6 per cent, an ANZ survey shows.

The rise in December follows a 5.2 per cent increase the month before and it was the strongest monthly growth since May 2007.

ANZ acting chief economist Warren Hogan said total job advertisements have recovered from the recent low in July 2009 as they continue to improve each month.

“This is already translating into employment growth and helping to keep the unemployment rate relatively stable, despite accelerating population and labour force growth,” Mr Hogan said.

“This sustained improvement in job advertisements and actual employment has come relatively early in this economic recovery cycle, indicating the mildness of the downturn Australia has experienced over the past 18 months.”

The report comes ahead of labour force figures for December from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday.

Financial markets expect the number of new jobs created increased by 10,000 in December, and the unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage points in December.

The number of jobs advertised in major metropolitan newspapers averaged 10,631 a week, and were 4.8 per cent higher than 12 months ago, the ANZ survey says.

Online job ads averaged 138,432 a week, but they were 24.1 per cent lower than in December 2008.

Mr Hogan forecasts the job market to continue to improve in the coming months.

“In the near term, the forward indicators appear positive for some solid employment growth in December and over the summer months, although probably at a slower pace than seen in the past three months,” Mr Hogan said.

“The ANZ (and other) job ads surveys are improving rapidly, retail sales turnover grew strongly in November (retail trade is currently Australia’s second largest employing sector, behind health services), business investment and construction are regrouping, and the AiGs three industry surveys (manufacturing, services and construction) all indicated net expansion of employment in December.”

ANZ expects the unemployment rate to peak at around six per cent by mid-2010.

http://www.theage.com.au/business/war-for-talent-is-back-20091112-ibei.html

Michael Pascoe
November 12, 2009 – 1:29PM

Australian employment figures are set to join the Australian dollar as being unforecastable. Some time soon the commentariat will need to stop trying to preserve what’s left of its credibility.

While the market “consensus” was for an employment fall of 10,000, the ABS labour force numbers surprised again on the upside – an extra 11,100 on the headline seasonally adjusted rate, a more modest 8700 on the better trend numbers.

The important thing about the employment growth is that it means consumer spending power is rising despite the unemployment rate trickling higher. There is no shortage of potential customers out there with pay packets in their purses and wallets.

The forecasters’ inability to grasp what our economy is up to this year has become legendary. Who can forget the three wise monkeys that popped up with Kerry O’Brien after the May budget was delivered to criticise Treasury’s forecasts as being wildly optimistic, implying Ken Henry had been politically nobbled?

It has of course turned out that the Treasury forecasts were incorrect, being too pessimistic, but no reasonable person would blame them for that. As has been stated in this space before, the important thing about forecasts isn’t what sort of dodgy guarantee that might come with, but whether they are credible.

And credibility has been in short supply in guessing what the workforce is up to. What keeps being overlooked by those trapped in city financial districts is the strength of investment in the ongoing commodities boom and employers’ ability to remember what last year’s full employment was like when trying to hire people with the appropriate skills.

I was in Mackay earlier this week – capital of a region where the GFC was only a pause for breath, where housing is close to Sydney prices and unemployment is minimal. While Australian credit growth was just 1.7 per cent over the past year, the NAB’s Mackay lending book grew by 12 per cent. For every story of a tourist town doing it harder, there’s a resources town booming.

The “war for talent” is back on and is perhaps being made more difficult as the economy picks up by the Immigration Department toughening up on 457 visas.

That realisation is spreading in businesses close to the ground – it’s almost too late to make the best of this crisis in terms of improving the quality of their workforce. It could soon be back to grabbing whoever you can, rather than having a choice of talent.

Yet to surface is any debate about just what Australia’s full employment rate actually is, or at least the NAIRU – the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment.

Last week saw Treasury official revise its unemployment peak forecast down to 6.75 per cent. There’s a good chance Wayne Swan will be announcing a lower figure again in May.

We’re likely to have come through the GFC with the peak unemployment being substantially less than our average unemployment rate of the past three decades, and perhaps only about the same as the unemployment rate before the last recession.

Michael Pascoe is a BusinessDay contributing editor

01 July 2009
‘You don’t have Australian experience’ – the biggest cop out in a recruiter’s lexicon
When I was recruiting temp accountants for Recruitment Solutions in Sydney during the 1990s, I took a lot of satisfaction in placing many ‘number crunchers’ who didn’t have ‘Australian experience’.

These arrivals to the Great Southern Land had permanently left homes in countries such as Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Fiji, to name just a few. None of these accountants had previously set foot in a workplace full of Vegemite lovers, yet I was able to secure them assignments with my varied clients , covering industries such as Financial Services, Travel, Freight & Logistics, Telecommunications and Property.

I accomplished this in an environment where ‘skills shortage’ was barely a glint in the amorous eye of the Australian labour market. For the benefit of the Gen Y’s reading this, who were merely a glint in their father’s eye, at the time, unemployment took four years to move down a miniscule 1.5 percentage points (9.7% in July 1994 to 8.2% in July 1998) as the Australian economy slowly built up steam after the ‘recession we had to have’.

When I hear today’s recruiters moan about any alleged ‘skills shortage’ in their market, I am always interested to know how many candidates without ‘Australian experience’ they have placed or even referred to their clients recently. The response that is typically shot back at me is ‘my clients won’t look at them’.

Really? And as expert in your field of work, you accept this response?

What a cop out!

It’s a lame excuse typical of an unskilled, under-trained or lazy recruiter – or all three.

Why is it a lame excuse? Because competence at work is determined by behavior.

Australian workplace behavior is NOT unique – it has far more similarities than differences when compared to other workplaces around the world.

Humans tend to observe differences and exaggerate their magnitude and significance far beyond what objective analysis would justify. Believing that workplace behaviours found in other countries are not replicated in Australia (or vice versa) is ignorant, arrogant, naïve and patently false.

No matter in what workplace or which country a candidate has gained their experience, they will have developed a range of competencies to a certain level. The fundamental job of ANY recruiter is to identify these competencies and assess whether the level of these competencies at least matches the minimum level required for the job the candidate has applied for.

In circumstances where ‘Australian experience’ is relevant it is mostly tied to appropriate standards and qualifications required of immigrants by professional associations, as distinct from a specific amount of experience in an Australian workplace (eg medicine, accounting).

Even so, I still placed plenty of ‘No Australian Experience Candidates’ (NAECs) into temp roles that required competency in accounting skills (eg management accounting, reconciliations etc) rather than Australian-specific accounting knowledge areas (eg tax and law).

So was I a politically correct, bleeding heart, do-gooder leftie who had a personal crusade against discrimination in Australian workplaces? LOL. Far from it!

As a recruiter, I was one of the most hard-arsed, commercially driven recruiters around. I only placed candidates that were the best possible candidates for my clients’ jobs, regardless of Australian work experience or not.

It made huge commercial sense for me to place accountants without land girt by sea experience. Here are the major reasons why:

Skill: Accounting fundamentals around the world are the same. As long as I asked the right questions I could quickly ascertain how well matched the skills of a NAEC were to my client’s requirements.

Reliability, loyalty and commitment: An Australian reference, even from a 4 week temp job, was seen as invaluable to NAECs, so they worked hard, never complained and completed their assignments as agreed.

Flexibility: After all the inevitable patience, drama and organisation required to relocate to Australia, changing trains, catching buses or working in grungy, off-the-beaten-track, Sydney suburban offices, didn’t phase a NAEC as much as it did my true-blue Aussie candidates.

Value: Grateful for a job, NAECs accepted a fair rate for the job and never attempted to negotiate an unjustified rate increase half way through their assignment.

No distracting perm interviews: Because perm recruiters put my NAECs in the ‘too hard basket’, my candidates were not distracted by calls and interviews for perm jobs.

Temp-to-perm pot of gold: As skilled workers who were also reliable and committed, it didn’t take too long for my clients to be convinced of the excellent value offered by my NAECs. Perm job offers often followed and were never turned down.

Referrals: NAECs had close-knit, well-connected communities and networks and as a result I always had a steady stream of quality referrals (candidates AND clients).

Given this long and not exhaustive list, it would seem that it’s a no-brainer to place competent NAECs into relevant roles – so why isn’t it happening in recruitment agencies all over Australia?

To find out the answer go to http://rossclennett.com/docs/Web_InSight/2009/monthly/jul-part2.html for Part 2 of my article

http://rossclennett.blogspot.com/2009/07/you-dont-have-australian-experience.html

THERE will be a severe skills shortage in Australia when the economic downturn subsides, an employment services group says.

More than 43,000 skilled workers joined the ranks of the unemployed in the opening months of 2009, new research shows.

There are now 133,700 unemployed skilled workers, according to the data by specialist employment services group Clarius.

Clarius executive manager Kym Quick said it was a temporary situation.

“At some point down the track we will be back in the same scenario that we were several years ago where we will have severe skills shortages,” Ms Quick told ABC Television

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,25498843-5005961,00.html

Rebecca Smith
May 13, 2009

Rebecca Smith: ”To invest in research is to invest in society’s long-term well-being.”
In the last quarter of 2008, a significant group of Australians was living below the poverty line. For a single person, this meant living on less than $415.06 a week. These people were working full time — 40 hours a week, and probably much more. They received no employer superannuation and weren’t entitled to concessions or pensions.

Who were they? Illegal migrant workers? Sweatshop employees unaware of their rights? No — they were some of Australia’s best and brightest minds: PhD students.

A PhD is a long-term research project. PhD students take up these projects after undergraduate studies. They work for about four years to train as independent researchers with the aim of making a significant contribution to knowledge. If successful, a PhD student is awarded a doctorate (D) of philosophy (Ph) and can begin a research career.

Research into the fundamental questions of science and the humanities is what drives a society forward. The application of the resultant knowledge makes a society healthier, wealthier, happier and more productive. To invest in research is to invest in a society’s long-term well-being.

Four reports into research and higher education were delivered to the Government in 2008, and each recommended increasing the nation’s investment in research and development.

In response, the 2009-10 budget increased funding to science and innovation by 25 per cent. For the basic research administered by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, the CSIRO, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Australian Research Council, funds were increased by 8 per cent overall.

These increases will go some way to improving Australia’s gross expenditure on research and development, which was last measured at 2.01 per cent of GDP, below the 2.26 per cent OECD average.

But the budget was another disappointment to PhD students. Their stipends will increase 10 per cent from $20,427 in 2009 to $22,500 in 2010. This is an improvement relative to the 2 per cent increase between 2008 ($20,007) and 2009, but nowhere near what is needed.

The 2008 Parliamentary Inquiry into Research Training and Research Workforce Issues recommended increasing PhD scholarships by 50 per cent to $30,000 a year, and to extend support from 3½ years to 4½ years.

The Cutler and Bradley reviews recommended more modest increases to $25,000 and four years. The Australia 2020 Summit report also suggested formalising research as a career path, like teaching or medicine, and giving researchers the recognition they are due.

The 10 per cent increase is, as Innovation Minister Kim Carr hinted, “as budget permitted”. It’s a reflection of the times and a nod to the advice given to the Government by the reviews of 2008. But it doesn’t acknowledge the true worth of Australia’s researchers to our future prosperity.

Doubling the number of places for PhD students, as the 2008-09 budget allowed, was only half the solution to fulfilling Australia’s future demand for highly skilled workers.

The other half of the solution was to increase PhD stipends. PhD students and the research community were hoping this year’s budget would deliver. It didn’t, and we are still paying our next generation of researchers a relative pittance.

An annual $20,000 or $22,500 PhD stipend (tax-free) is not an adequate financial inducement for talented students who could earn double that amount, and more, by entering the workforce directly after their bachelor’s degree.

If money is what motivates, the result will be that Australia has fewer and fewer researchers in training.

But it is not financial rewards that drive bright, idealistic students into the long and challenging route to their research licences. Those who choose a research career would probably do so regardless of money.

And so we have to ask, is this systematised exploitation of Australia’s young researchers? An out-of-date training model stressed by the economic crisis? A reflection of the entrenched short-sightedness of three-year governments, focused not on building intellectual infrastructure but patching holes? Or an expression of Australia’s sad tendency to shun scholarly achievement and tall poppies? That PhD stipends have remained so low for so long, even in our recent boom, suggests the answer to that.

We could also suggest that a 10 per cent increase to stipends helps students but it helps our politicians more, because, most of all, it helps avoid the embarrassing situation of another financial quarter in which Australia’s future leaders are living below the poverty line.

Dr Rebecca Smith is the founding director of Science Hub Australia, a new organisation for the advancement of Australian scientists and science.

http://www.watoday.com.au/opinion/clever-country-our-brightest-are-kept-dirt-poor-20090513-b3bz.html?page=-1

14 May 2009 8:07am

Many employers will be faced with a new battle to retain their best workers after the Federal Government announced plans to invest $22 billion of its 2009/10 budget in the nation’s infrastructure, says Hewitt’s Australia and New Zealand managing director, David Brown.

“We will see some talent migration due to opportunities that will open up in the infrastructure sector,” Brown told HR Daily.

“Organisations that win tenders will take advantage of the tight talent market.”

Engineers, scientists and others with specialist skills will be in particular demand, he says, and will be difficult to retain as new projects get off the ground.

In the budget papers released on Tuesday night, the Government says that the $22 billion will be invested in roads, rail and ports; education and research projects; hospitals and other treatment facilities; and a clean energy initiative.

It will also contribute $4.7 billion towards the development of a superfast broadband network.

The Government has also committed to:
establishing a paid parental leave scheme (see related article), in which eligible parents will receive 18 weeks’ paid leave at the minimum wage (currently at $543.78) after the birth or adoption of a child;

investing nearly $150 million over four years in the implementation of Fair Work Australia, plus $14.3 million to inform and educate employers and employees on the new workplace relations legislation;

ditching the alternative dispute resolution assistance scheme, in favour of the “less legalistic” approach to dispute resolution allowed for in the above legislation;

investing $1.5 million in training initiatives;

increasing the small and general business tax break to 50 per cent for eligible assets;

increasing the retirement age from 65 to 67 by 2023; and

cutting concessional superannuation contribution caps.
Baby boomers left short with superannuation instability
A reduction in the concessional contribution tax limit – from $50,000 to $25,000 – could leave workers closer to retirement with less opportunity to top up their super and make up for recent significant investment losses, according to Mercer’s chief executive, Peter Promnitz.

Long-term changes to pension-age policy are necessary, Promnitz says, but the concessional cuts appear to have been made in isolation from a clear retirement-income framework.

“Tinkering with the system and making piecemeal changes will potentially damage Australians’ confidence in the stability of superannuation rules,” he says.

“Halving the cap on concessional contributions may provide short-term budgetary relief but lacks a long-term plan or foresight.

“Anyone playing catch-up for their retirement income – baby boomers nearing retirement or women out of the workforce for extended periods – will be hit by these changes.”

HR must “recalibrate” retirement planning
Brown says that HR personnel will now need to “recalibrate and think a little harder about retirement planning”, with changes to the superannuation platform and the increase of the retirement age likely to be the areas where the budget has its biggest impact.

The new super rules will affect organisations at all employment levels, he says, leaving employers with the difficult task of determining how to factor in contributions and how to “fit” super into job offers or frame it as a perk.

He says the budget papers also hint at the restriction or removal of executive share options, in line with the general tightening of executive remuneration, although the language used in the budget does not make the nature of the new restrictions particularly clear.

Brown notes that the increased retirement age will be a boon to baby boomers who haven’t yet prepared for their exit from the workplace, but that it could create a “squeeze” as Gen X employees, working their way through the ranks, are blocked from opportunities they would have otherwise expected.

Mixed feelings from business advocate
ACCI chief executive Peter Anderson says that while a boost in infrastructure spending is a “big plus” for employers, the budget doesn’t go far enough to take the pressure off the cost of doing business at a time when the private sector is “doing it very tough”.

Cuts to the skilled migration program could damage labour-market efficiency, he says, and the paid parental leave scheme will expose employers to indirect labour and administrative costs.

“It’s a budget aimed at these tougher times,” he says, “but the mix of big spending and moderated saving is a risky high-wire act.”

Employee advocates are a little more enthused.

“This is a budget for jobs, jobs and jobs, with a bit of tough love on the side,” says ACTU president, Sharan Burrow.

“The achievement of a national paid maternity leave scheme is an historic win for working women.”

Adele Horin
May 14, 2009

“I’m jack of it “…sewer repairer Richard Bishop wants to retire but the later eligibility for the age pension will affect his plans. Photo: James Brickwood

RICHARD BISHOP began working at 14 and after decades of hard manual labour he is keen to retire as soon as possible.

“I’m jack of it,” said the 57-year old who repairs sewers for a living. “I’ve just had a knee reconstruction and by the time I’m 60 I don’t think I’m going to be getting any better. I want to enjoy what I’ve got left.”

Mr Bishop’s plans to put his feet up have been derailed by the Federal Government’s plan progressively to raise the pension eligibility age to 67 from 2017.

He admits the plan will hurt him and he is not alone – most Australian workers will not applaud the initiative, according to social researcher Julia Perry.

“Employers don’t want older workers, and a lot of mature-age workers want out, too,” said Ms Perry, who produced the Too Young To Go report on older workers for the NSW Government.

To prefer to work beyond 60 has always been a minority taste. At most, 25 per cent of mature-age workers enjoy their jobs so much they want to keep going beyond the usual retirement age, research consistently shows. “Only a minority of workers have the kind of job that is exciting or fulfilling,” said Sol Encel, emeritus professor at the University of NSW who is an expert on the ageing population. “Work is a chore for most people, especially as they age.”

Yet most experts agree the decision to lift the pension age is a necessity in the absence of higher tax rates to fund burgeoning health and aged care services, as well as pensions and superannuation concessions for a greying population. Australia is following a trend set by the US, Germany, Iceland, Norway and Denmark. In Britain 68 is the age for pension eligibility.

Australia’s plan will affect workers now aged 57 or younger. Those aged 55.5 to 57 will not be eligible for a pension until they are 65.5 and those aged 52.5 or younger not until 67.

Australians appeared to be resigned to their fate, Professor Encel said.

In the past decade, workers have reversed the trend to early retirement. Since 1998, the proportion of men aged 60-64 in the workforce has risen from 43 per cent to 52 per cent, and the proportion aged 65-69 has jumped from 19 per cent to 27 per cent, with most working part-time. For women the proportion of those aged 60-64 in work has almost doubled to 36 per cent.

But most, Professor Encel said, were economic conscripts. “The boomers have come to realise they don’t have the money to retire at 60. They’ve got responsibilities upscale and downscale – ageing parents and dependent children,” he said. “And they know if they have to rely on the pension, they’ll suffer a dramatic drop in lifestyle.”

Ms Perry said it was regrettable to compel low-skilled and low-paid workers, many with health problems, to work longer for the pension if highly skilled workers continued to be able to retire early by accessing superannuation at 55 or getting it tax free at 60.

The Henry review of the tax system recommended the preservation age for super be aligned with the age pension age.

If employees are expected to work longer, employer attitudes will need to change, experts say. “It’s a good idea to encourage people to work longer but you have to encourage employers to employ them longer,” Ms Perry said.

David Murray, 57, a company director, said though he was unlikely to be affected by the change in the eligibility age, he had lost retirement savings in the downturn. “Most people have lost 25 to 30 per cent of their retirement funds, so it’s going to take them another four to eight years before they can start to recoup some of that. Most retirements have been pushed out anyway.”

with Jonathan Dart

http://www.smh.com.au/national/too-young-to-retire-and-too-old-to-work-20090513-b3dt.html?page=-1

Misha Schubert, Daniella Miletic and Peter Martin
May 14, 2009

AUSTRALIANS could be forced to wait until they are 67 to get access to their superannuation savings under a radical proposal to be considered later this year by the Rudd Government.

A day after flagging a rise in the pension age to 67, the Government has confirmed it will look at introducing the same age limit for super access – in effect making 67 a universal minimum retirement age.

Bringing the superannuation age into line with a higher pension age was recommended by Treasury secretary Ken Henry in a review published with the federal budget papers on Tuesday.

Dr Henry’s plan, for a phased lifting of the super age from 60 to 67 from 2024, is part of a broad push to keep Australians at work longer to help the nation cope financially with its ageing population.

A spokesman for Treasurer Wayne Swan said the Government would “thoroughly assess the findings of the Henry review when they are delivered at the end of the year”. But he stressed that the super issue would not be considered before then.

The plan could be even more controversial than the budget decision to lift the pension age.

Jane Chisholm, 53, was unhappy enough at the idea of having to stay in the workforce beyond 65 before she could even think about applying for the age pension.

“They are finally getting us baby boomers back, I guess,” said Ms Chisholm, marketing manager of Gasworks Arts Park in Albert Park.

But she expressed stronger misgivings at the proposal to lift the super access age. While she understood the need to prepare the nation for people living and working longer, she said the super proposal was cruel.

“People like to think they could have control of the money that is there for their retirement,” Ms Chisholm said. “If you want to go travelling and do some of the things you want to do, it’s just putting it closer to the 70 mark, when you can’t count on your health.”

The move to raise the pension age sparked fierce debate, with critics saying it would entrench inequality and force more old people into poverty.

Mr Swan said the decision was needed to keep pensions sustainable. “Currently we have five workers in Australia for every person aged 65 and over and by 2050, that will be 2½,” he said in a post-budget interview.

“Life expectancy has increased by 23 years since the age pension came in,” he said. “Twice as many people are going on it for twice as long.”

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull supported the pension age increase, saying his only concern was that it would not come in soon enough.

National Seniors also backed the move, noting that it would not come in until 2023.

But critics highlighted the contrast between the rich getting access to super at 60 (at least under existing rules), while the poor were being forced to work or stay on the dole until 67.

The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association warned the move would add to poverty among over-65s and force some to toil longer at hard physical labour. “People in their 50s and 60s are often unable to find adequate employment,” said the association’s policy officer, Charmaine Crowe.

But she backed the idea of aligning the pension and superannuation ages, saying it would ensure more equality between richer and poor retirees, keep skilled people in the workforce longer and boost super savings.

Sydney University workplace relations centre analyst Michael Rafferty said increasing the pension age would entrench inequality and force some of the hardest working people in the world to work even longer.

He also pointed to what he said was a disparity between the pension decision and the mild cuts in the budget to tax breaks on superannuation. “The rich have been hit with a feather duster and the poor have been told you are going to work longer and harder,” he said.

Australian Council of Social Service chief Clare Martin said lifting the pension age to 67 might disadvantage “lower-income, mature-age people with limited job prospects, who will have to remain on lower income support payments for longer”.

UNSW Centre for Pensions and Superannuation deputy director John Evans said the pension age rise was a “knee-jerk” decision that could damage the vulnerable.

But Brotherhood of St Laurence chief executive Tony Nicholson said raising the pension age was inevitable to ensure the long-term sustainability of the system.

David Knox, a partner at Mercer Consulting who proposed the 67 pension age in a paper prepared for the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia, also welcomed the decision.

But he expressed dismay at the proposal to lift the super preservation age to 67.

“The superannuation access age should generally be about five years younger than the pension age in order to provide flexibility. You cannot assume that everyone will retire at the same age, in fact today most people retire before 65.”

Superannuation access is at present available at 55, with the age set to climb to 60 by 2024. The Henry Review recommends a further staged increased to 67, after which it would remain aligned with the pension age in order to stop Australians spending their super payout quickly and then getting access to the part-pension.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/push-to-lock-up-superannuation-savings-until-age-67-20090513-b39y.html?page=-1

12 May 2009 6:15am

Extensive research into its target market, and some strategic alliances, have helped Pacific Brands turn around “appalling” mis-hire and time-to-fill rates, according to its GM of talent and organisational capability, Russell Kronenburg.

It was taking, on average, 181 days to hire design managers when innovative designers “had the potential, with one product, to deliver about $300,000 additional revenue in a day”, he told the Australasian Talent Conference last week.

At the time, two in five designers were leaving the company during their first year.

Pacific Brands opted to spend some time “confirming our understanding about what employees valued about us”, and what external people perceived about the company (and what might attract them), he said.

It found that part of its problem was the lack of a “fantastic relationship” with the design community, and that its competitive, corporate-style recruitment approach didn’t appeal to the best designers.

“Our strategies in the way we were talking to them were wrong. Our solutions were wrong.”

It responded by addressing four key areas:
internships and design projects – to give students “real world” experience. “To be honest, I don’t even care if they come and work for Pacific Brands, I don’t care if I can use their design (because it’s their IP). What I am really keen about is how they become a better designer so that at one point in time, if they ever come into our business, I know that they’ve had real world experience and they’re able to solve our needs and our consumers’ needs.”

Employee development – “it’s about how do I build technical capabilities for some of our more creative and innovative people? Often they love this world of creativity, but they hate constraints. They often don’t get a lot of development because no-one knows how to solve their development needs.”

Pacific Brands partnered with academic institutions around the world and Kronenburg says these are “an untapped source”;

Research – “how do we partner with people to advance research for the industry, from a consumers’ point of view, and possibly even how do we tap into it?” and

Recruitment – Pacific Brands opted not to use external recruiters to source designers because that wouldn’t achieve its aim of building relationships with the design community.

“I didn’t want to give that to an external recruiter because what we would miss out on is the relationship that we could build with people that may not necessarily want to come and work for us tomorrow [but might in the future].”

Long-term focus
Kronenburg says large employers must focus not only on their own talent needs but also those of the broader industries in which they operate.

Initially, he said, the strategies Pacific Brands employed were “about our needs” and the design community was “a bit concerned and sceptical. We found it didn’t unlock a lot of doors for individuals and the community”.

As a result, the company embarked on “other initiatives that were about long-term viability… In doing that, we’ve enabled ourselves to be in a different space”.

The initiatives included:
building (“really cheaply”) a LinkedIn forum called the International Fashion and Apparel Association. Kronenburg manages it and oversees who joins, but there are no constraints on the community. It has about 1400 members worldwide who ask each other questions. Although it wasn’t built as a recruiting portal, he said, “we have found some fantastic people from it”;

going to universities to help students with their interview skills and talk about their portfolios;

knowledge exchanges – giving designers the chance to be guest lecturers at overseas universities; and

industry design projects – winners get to work at Pacific Brands for a limited time, giving it “access to the best design talent in the marketplace”.

Kronenburg said that as a result of all the initiatives, “we’ve got access to a much bigger talent pool of designers than we ever had before.”

“We now have people graduating from universities around the world who would have never known about Pacific Brands previously who now know about us and want to come and work for us.”

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