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September 20, 2015

Three principles for developing the workforce of the future – now

Jonas Prising, the worldwide Chief Executive Officer of the ManpowerGroup, shares insights of best-practice in workforce development – with implications for inclusion and equity, as well as productivity.

Jonas PrisingJonas Prising, worldwide CEO of ManpowerGroup: ‘Companies need to get involved as collaborators in making careers education fit for purpose’.

While the headline figures in Australia continue to show stagnant unemployment rates and growing long-term youth unemployment, Prising saw clearer skies on the horizon with ageing employees exiting the workforce, new markets being developed and the growth of the knowledge economy.  His message was clear.

“The world of work is changing rapidly and companies that do not adapt to the changing circumstances will fall behind and potentially lose profitability,” he said.

The thrust of his message was that young people entering the workforce no longer have the expectation of a career for life; they expect to change not only jobs and companies but careers frequently. They want to work for companies that are creating social value as well as financial value; and young people entering the job market in the next 10-15 years will be applying for jobs which at the moment don’t even exist.

… no company that wants to survive or grow can afford to bury their head in the sand.

Whilst Prising saw a vital need for the education system to evolve to deal with this new environment, the focus of his message was to companies.

“Given the complexity of the situation, no company that wants to survive or grow can afford to bury their head in the sand, ” he said.

Drawing on his worldwide experience, Prising lay down the markers of the forward-thinking company. Embedded in these companies are the following characteristics:

  • a focus on long-term strategy
  • a concern for their social impact the expansion of their supply chain to create social value,
  • an innovative approach to corporate philanthropy including engaged volunteering, strategic giving and embracing shared value, and
  • the development of a diverse workforce.

It was on this last area of workforce development that Prising focused, identifying three key strategies that companies should pursue in Australia.

Collaborate in the reform of careers learning

While careers learning is usually seen as the domain of education or government, Prising was adamant that companies had to get involved as collaborators in making careers education fit for purpose. He saw the reform of careers education as fundamental to preparing young people for the future world of work. He was excited by developments in countries such as Korea, Singapore, Germany and Scandinavia where different approaches are being tried and industry is heavily involved. He cautioned against copying other parts of the world, and instead recommended observing and learning from them and  developing a new approach to careers education that will work in Australia.

Beyond the Classroom aims to identify, test and scale a new approach to careers education…

One example of this happening is Beyond the Classroom (BTC), an initiative developed by the Beacon Foundation, the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) and SVA. Beyond the Classroom aims to identify, test and scale a new approach to careers education that provides earlier exposure for students to the world of work, and greater alignment of in-school activities and learning with local employment opportunities. BTC is modelled on international best practice and the experience of organisations like the Beacon Foundation, which helps students make informed, aspirational decisions about their future pathways.

Another example of a new approach to careers learning can be seen at St Patricks Technical College in Adelaide, South Australia. St Patrick’s, a specialist trade and technical school, is equipped with industry standard facilities and has strong links to industry. The technical training curriculum and the core English, maths and science curricula provide real work examples and structured work placements. Seventy per cent of students are placed into employment while still at school.

The Macquarie Business Park Community Partnership is an example of industry pooling resources to provide opportunities to young people making the transition from school to work. Led by companies such as Johnson & Johnson Medical, Fuji Xerox Australia, Macquarie Telecom and Macquarie University Hospital, and supported by United Way, the initiative provides local young people the opportunity to gain exposure to the world of work, develop their employability skills and create new networks. As well as supporting local pockets of need, the companies are looking to build a successful model that can be replicated and scaled to other business parks across Australia.

Companies need to maximise the value they leverage from training and development…

Invest in training and development

Prising emphasised that despite the uncertainties of the current operating environment, the increasing transition to a knowledge economy means that investing in training and development is more important than ever. Companies need to maximise the value they leverage from training and development, and both government and business need to design training and employment initiatives that focus on developing the workforce of the future – not just meeting current workforce needs.

One such program is the Australian Government’s Green Army for 17-24 year olds to train and work in the environment. Designed to deliver both environmental projects and training and development, the initiative will employ some 15,000 young people for 6 months to complete 1500 projects by 2018. Landcare in collaboration with ManpowerGroup are one of the five service providers delivering the program.

The young people will be trained in first aid and work health and safety, have the opportunity to do accredited training modules and be able to explore careers in conservation management.

… the need for companies to expand the talent pool to bring in those who are currently excluded from labour market opportunities…

Expand the talent pool

Along with diversity approaches to reflect the society that companies operate in, Prising saw the need for companies to expand the talent pool to bring in those who are currently excluded from labour market opportunities – people experiencing long-term unemployment for example, or with other barriers to entry like mental health issues. Not only would this reduce welfare bills, there is evidence of greater job retention and increased job satisfaction within these groups.

The model starts with an employer’s recruitment needs and works from there…

To this end, the Industry Employment Initiative (IEI), a collaboration between SVA, Brotherhood of St Laurence, Jesuit Social Services and Mission Australia, is piloting a model where training and development is directly linked to available jobs (a demand-led approach) but recruiting young job seekers at risk of or experiencing long-term unemployment. The model starts with an employer’s recruitment needs and works from there to co-design training and work-readiness support for these recruits. The model includes holistic support for applicants, as well as capacity building and ongoing support for the employer.

Another example of an effective approach to expanding the talent pool is through social enterprise. Since 2009, the Social Studio has helped recent younger migrants (particularly those who have migrated on humanitarian grounds) to realise their aspirations and potential by supporting their transition into further education and employment within mainstream businesses. This is done through the development of careers management, education and employability skills, and offering young people opportunity to practice these skills in a supportive work and training context.

Social Studio participants can access accredited training and advanced pathways through partnerships with William Angliss and RMIT University, where they are supported to study Clothing Production, Hospitality, and Retail.  They also have access to wrap around social support including referrals for housing, legal and health services, tutoring in English as a second language (ESL), financial literacy and counselling to assist them with any barriers to employment they are experiencing. More than 75 per cent of those involved in Social Studio’s formal programs so far have transitioned into permanent employment or further education.

Call to action

Each of the examples in this article point to the seeds of the approaches being advocated by Prising beginning to take root in Australia. A key challenge is how to take these approaches to scale.

Prising concluded with a call to action for corporates, government, the education sector, recruiters, employment service providers and community organisations; if we are to deal with the challenges ahead then there needs to be greater co-operation and collaboration across sectors. Only this type of collaboration will provide opportunity for all Australians to participate in the labour market of the future.

Kevin Robbie is the CEO of United Way Australia (UWA). UWA mobilises individuals, companies and funders to tackle community disadvantage focusing on the three key pillars of education, income and health. Its education strategy is underpinned by a cradle to career approach. Previously, Kevin was Executive Director at SVA for seven years. 

Jonas Prising, worldwide CEO of ManpowerGroup presented at a discussion on youth unemployment hosted by SVA.

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