Older workers face obstacles: Professionals Australia

Pharmacist on the phone

More than half of science, technology, engineering and math professionals over the age of 45 say their workplace doesn’t provide them with opportunities to transfer their skills to younger staff, a new report by Professionals Australia has shown.

The union represents engineers, scientists, managers and veterinarians as well as pharmacists.

“Professionals over the age of 45 bring leadership and decision-making based on decades of experience,” says Chris Walton, CEO of Professionals Australia.

This report tells us there are a number of serious obstacles facing older professionals. Age-based discrimination and bias are widespread.

“If we do not act on these results, our future STEM workforce will lack the depth and expert capacity to address key economic challenges. It is critical that mature workers have structured opportunities to train and mentor graduates and younger professionals.

“It is concerning that 67.7% of professionals aged over 45 do not get the opportunity to actively mentor younger staff.”

Half of respondents to the survey said there us an assumption in their workplace that older workers are ‘resistant to change,’ and 32.2% reported that other perceived they were ‘headed for retirement,’ and therefore less productive.

“Employers must make sure workers in their 50s and 60s have meaningful career progression opportunities if we are going to retain expertise and achieve full workforce participation with an aging population,” says Walton.

“The supervision of early career professionals by more senior professionals helps younger workers develop sound professional judgment and apply the methods and techniques they have learnt during tertiary studies. This report finds employers are not investing strategically in proper skills transfer, mentoring and succession planning.

“Experienced professionals will drive future prosperity in a knowledge economy. They have the flexibility, life experience and strategic understanding to deliver across complex projects.

“The vast majority of people over the age of 45 (74%) want to be working, and have a contribution to make, so barriers to their participation need to be addressed.”

Common stereotypes about mature-age workers include that they will lack IT skills and be more prone to health issues.

Recruitment agencies were seen as a significant barrier to re-entering the workforce, as they were reported to give preference to younger workers.

Succession planning is also a problem, with 79.5% of respondents saying their organisation did not have succession planning arrangements in place.

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