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On the front line: Employment services staff perspectives on working with mature age jobseekers

Existing policy responses to workforce age discrimination tend to focus on the role of employers in providing opportunities for jobseekers aged over 45. By contrast the ‘Enhancing employment services for mature age jobseekers’ study builds on previous research about mature age workforce participation to focus on employment services and how their staff might work more effectively with mature-age jobseekers. The latest iteration of Australia’s outsourced public employment services is jobactive. However, jobactive is not working particularly well for mature age jobseekers, employment services staff or employers. Our research highlights several contradictions that undermine the effectiveness of assistance offered to mature age, and other, jobseekers. Older jobseekers may be seen as difficult to place and therefore be liable to ‘parking’ by employment services. As the frontline staff now tend to be younger and have fewer qualifications, our previous research suggested that their age mismatch with older jobseekers may give rise to unconscious bias., This report focuses on the perspectives of employment services staff. It draws on 32 semi-structured interviews conducted with jobactive staff in four employment regions in Melbourne with high mature age unemployment. Two complementary reports focus on the perspectives of mature age jobseekers and employers. From our interviews with employment services staff, we identified the following issues: prompt and flexible services are vital; assessment of needs could be improved; jobseeker skills assessment should be complemented by training linked to employment; understanding and collaborating in local labour markets is essential; recognising and fostering diversity and inclusive employment; and employer engagement presents challenges. To overcome these obstacles, employment services staff need more time to understand employers’ needs and match suitable jobseekers with vacancies. They may also need training in strategies to promote mature age jobseekers, and related incentives such as Restart, to employers.