NSWTOx Mature Workers

Welcome to the Mature Age Workers blog providing a wealth of information on programs and services for our mature age workers.

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May 11, 2008

Spellcheck - your friend?


I have a spelling check,
It came with my PC.
It plainly marks four my revue,
Mistakes I cannot sea.
I’ve run this poem threw it,
I’m sure your pleased to no.
It’s letter perfect in it’s weigh
My checker tolled me sew.

November 16, 2007

Engagement and Participation in a Learner-centred System

As the feeder for many TAFENSW VET courses through our sucessful programs in Adult Community Education, oOutreach practitioners may be interested in the "Four papers by Adult Learning Australia visiting research fellows".
The papers explore key questions—
what kind of capability is needed to re-engage those in the community who are missing out on the benefits of education and training? How can programs be made more adaptive to the needs and preferences a cross the spectrum? What kind of innovation in teaching and learning will be necessary to meet the needs of a broader spectrum of learners beyond the traditional clients of the system?

The paper was published in October 2007. John MCIntyre speaks authoritatively of the Ben Bardon Discussion Paper Community Education and National Reform and makes one reference to outreach once in the following context:
In this model Community Education is used as the outreach arm of the VET
market, using its community linkages and many points of presence to engage and re-engage adults into the VET system.

Mature age worker tax offset

Do your mature students know about the incentives ofer by the Australian Tax office.
The mature age worker tax offset (MAWTO) aims to encourage and reward mature age workers who stay in the workforce

September 18, 2006

Silence Can Be Deadly

by Barbara Bee

If you are one of the powerless in any society, silence can be deadly. Now that I work in the TAFE sector, I meet many students and groups who have left their countries of birth, either by choice or necessity to seek a better life in Australia. With rare exception, the people I deal with have had little if any education beyond a rudimentary few years at the primary level. They lack basic literacy and numeracy skills so they can't find work. When you listen to the stories of their struggles to make sense of their new lives here often in very straitened circumstances, it makes harrowing listening so that you feel your teaching has to make a difference.

Centrelink referred one such man to me because although he was conscientious in meeting his dole obligations to look for work, he was not having any success after numerous failed interview attempts. It was decided by his Case Manager, (and I guess in a last desperate effort) that he needed to improve his resume' writing skills and his interview techniques and I was assigned to work with him twice weekly for as long as it took for him to secure paid work.

This man, was illiterate in his first language, because in the small central African village where he had been born and lived he couldn't attend the local village school because it was too far for him to get to in a day.

When I first met him, he was living alone in Sydney, but had regular custody rights of his school-age daughter who had integrated comfortably with her classmates at a local public school.
You didn't have to be a counsellor to realise that this student was deeply depressed and desperate at his state of seeming helplessness. He clearly felt he was on a treadmill of failure for which he largely blamed himself, rather than an indifferent system which cruelly pitted him against so many others in the same boat scrambling for fewer and fewer jobs low-paid job options.

What caused him the most distress however, was his inability to provide his young daughter with the things she needed for school, as well as his lack of money to take her out for treats. He felt deep shame that his efforts to improve his reading and writing skills were no match for hers and so he couldn't help her with her school projects which she found frustrating and he found belittling as her Father when she grew impatient with him.

I felt very sorry for this man's plight and at first I did try to keep to the task in hand of helping him to write a decent job application, understand the language of resume writing and practise his interview skills despite his dispirited attitude and my feelings of cynicism at the futility of this.

I have no concrete evidence that my student was being discriminated against in interviews on the grounds of colour, but all too frequently he would arrange an interview over the phone, only to find out when he arrived at the work-site that the position 'just been filled'. This happened so frequently, I became suspicious, as did he.

One afternoon he broke down in tears, saying he felt he couldn't persist any longer in his attempts to find work. Neither did he want to have any further tuition with me because he felt it was leading him nowhere, as were his frustrating visits to the dole office followed by endless searching of local newspapers, setting up interviews, then being rejected.

I was complete agreement and I felt frustrated with the system too. I came clean about my suspicions as to why he kept getting rejected at interviews. I also told him that I thought the Centrelink hoops he was being required to jump through were just that and of little real value. Even so his unemployment benefits and the odd casual work were his only source of income so he needed to comply, however frustrated he felt.

I gently suggested that he try to stop blaming himself for a situation in which he was powerless and which was due to a bigger problem beyond individual control. I suggested that he take a break from coming to see me twice weekly, but that we stay in contact by telephone and if a job prospect looked likely, we could arrange to meet to discuss it further and I would help where I could. Otherwise he should save his twice weekly train fare to class to buy food.
In talking together, he first raised his suspicions about racial prejudice (I didn't have the courage!) so it was a relief for me to be able agree with his suspicions. Breaking the silence on all of this cleared the air for him and gave him better understanding of the reality of his situation. What he needed was someone to cut through the artifice of what he was being forced to do and help him to grasp the reality of what he suspected he was up against in the system.

Despite the depressing nature of this story it does have a happy ending, for a few weeks later he went along to an interview for a position as a storeman in which he was finally successful. I rang his employer, explaining how diligent this man had been in seeking work, that he really wanted to succeed and that I could assist if there were acclimatizing issues which he might need help with adjusting to. In addition I thanked him for giving my student his first real chance at work.
At last contact, this man was doing well on the job and more to the point his new workmates had accepted him, talking with him during meal breaks, showing him the ropes and guiding him when he made mistakes. In addition he told how they were putting him straight on English words and phrases, including some which don't appear in standard English texts!! The result was that this man began to restore his dignity because he had found a place in his adopted country, he was earning a regular wage to support himself and his daughter and, significantly, he was making friends among his workmates.

I tell this story because it demonstrates the need for teachers to be sensitive and responsive to the whole person and not just that part that calls for vocational skills' preparation and which tries to pretend that the broader issues of structural unemployment in Australian society don't have a bearing or implication for the way we work with unemployed students. We need to tell it like it is so that newly arrived settlers in Australia don't buy into the myths and silences.
Too many post-secondary students enrol in basic education courses teaching skills like resume' writing, interview techniques and introductory computing without any real understanding about structural unemployment or shifts in the global markets. When these people fail to get jobs we resort to blaming them, work, blame the victims and tell them to try harder or enrol in ever more fruitless short-term courses as a condition of receiving the dole.

Neither is it the job of post secondary institutions to make government statistics look good by supplying quick-fix short term job training schemes going nowhere but back to the dole queue in the long term. The need is for purposeful, authentic vocational education which gives participants strategies for understanding their situation and detecting false assumptions about unemployment.

Perhaps if vocational course adopted a more radical, popular education approach to the issue of the unemployed in our society, we might better succeed in preparing students and groups for the real situation in a global economy. In addition, a more collective analysis might result in creative solutions and initiatives for creating jobs instead of perpetuating an endless cycle of individual frustration, failure and dole queues and an endless round of resume writing and interviewing skills techniques.

For example there are strategic questions to ask the unemployed that would lead to uncovering insights at a deeper level than the technical. The popular educator might begin with the stories and feelings around not having a meaningful job in mainstream life, posing questions like these:

  • How does not having a job feel?
  • How has living on the dole changed life for you? Your partner? Your children?
  • What are some of the more important things you have had to learn to do without since you lost your job?
  • Who is to blame for your job loss, retrenchment or unemployment, How? Why?
  • How does it feel when you visit Centrelink? What happens there?
  • How does the future look to you? How might it change?
  • If you look around you at the present time, can you see any new opportunities for working in new areas or new ways?
  • Is paid work the most important aspect of your life? Why? Why not?
  • In a small country town in Western NSW a sewing factory recently was forced to close. It employed 30 women. How do you think this happened?

Consider what could emerge for both individuals and communities if a vocational module was devised and built around an investigation of the questions posed above. They could well prove fertile ground for research, analysis and most importantly of all, creative solutions.
My impression is that if such a program were seriously attempted, the outcomes could be more positive and productive than the present dispiriting tired old methods.

In a recent article, Glen Murcutt, a pioneering, world-renowned architect made the following comment in relation to what he sees as the stagnant state of our cities and culture:

'This is the mood of the culture that is Australia today. Fearful, conservative,
ignorant of its possibilities, afraid of change, always reaching back to the
past for reassurance and comfort instead of looking at the future with
imagination and brio' (Glen Murcutt, Spectrum, Sydney Morning Herald, Weekend
Edition, 22-24 October 2004)

You can equally apply Murcutt's description of the state of architecture in Australia today, to the state of vocational education and training in equity and access. Fearful, conservative, ignorant of possibilities might accurately describe how we respond to the jobless, while lending tacit approval for the way governments shift blame from their shoulders to the victims by making them join endless queues in job centres, or the rounds of vocational skills acquisition in TAFE.

October 19, 2005

ABS Article on Mature Age Workers

The ABS Year Book Australia Labour Article on Mature Age Workers. Here is an extract from there section on the characteristics on mature age workers:
"In 2003-04 there were 3.2 million mature age workers, making up a third of all employed people. Around 44% of these workers were women, the same proportion as that for all employed people. Just over a quarter (26%) of mature age workers were employed part-time, compared with 23% of employed 25-44 year olds. Men are generally less likely to work part-time than women, and this is true of mature age workers. In 2003-04, 11% of male mature age workers were employed part-time compared with 45% of their female counterparts."

Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care

This Department provides services and promotes opportunities for older people, people with a disability and their carers to participate in the wider community and to have a better quality of life.

February 17, 2005

Online Internet Learning Market Opportunities for Mature Age Workers

To increase and extend the participation of mature aged workers is necessary if Government and industry are to successfully meet the future economic challenges that are likely to unfold before them. Demographics dictate that without substantial immigration, shortages of labour are likely to occur which will artificially dampen Australia’s economic growth and standard of living.
The initial project scope led to research on a diverse range of issues that impact on the learning needs of mature age workers. The consolidation of these issues in “one place” and the preliminary development of integrated online learning and sector best practice models are important learning outcomes from this project. There are a significant number of issues identified impacting on the ability of the mature age worker cohort to effectively learn on line.

Online Internet Learning Market Opportunities for Mature Age Workers