IRT Foundation hosts 'Workforce Participation Innovation Sandpit' in Wollongong

Toby Dawson, IRT Foundation manager with Debra Murphy, CEO of Regional Development Australia Illawarra and Peter Watts, chief executive of IRIS Research. Picture: Supplied
Toby Dawson, IRT Foundation manager with Debra Murphy, CEO of Regional Development Australia Illawarra and Peter Watts, chief executive of IRIS Research. Picture: Supplied

Exploring why workforce participation by mature age men in the Illawarra is declining, and what can be done about it, was on the agenda this week. 

Community-owned seniors’ lifestyle and care providers IRT Group hosted the ‘Workforce Participation Innovation Sandpit’ in Wollongong on Wednesday. 

IRT Foundation has joined forces with Regional Development Australia (RDA) Illawarra, the NSW Government and IRIS Research to explore why workforce participation by mature age men in the Illawarra is declining, as well as steps to address this issue.

Representatives from local and state government, education and training providers, and community organisations attended the Sandpit.  

IRIS have partnered with RDA Illawarra to commission a body of research to look at the workforce participation rates in the Illawarra region for older workers.

Participants on Wednesday were presented with the results of the new research, which found male workforce participation is declining, particularly among older men, while women’s participation is on the rise.

“Our older males are out of the workforce at a ratio significantly more than both the state and national averages,” Mr Dawson said. 

The event also featured stakeholders taking part in workshops to look at potential practical solutions.

“It was agreed that there’s not one section of the community or society that can fix it,” Mr Dawson said.

“We actually need to see a coordinated and cohesive approach driven by government, business and employer groups, as well as the consumers and individuals themselves.

“We were looking at co-designing solutions, how we shift attitudes, how we create better awareness among older workers around their skills... Transferring those skills, or maybe even re-training to gain new skills. Also, what we can do specifically to target over-45 males, who are the most at risk group in the Illawarra.”

Mr Dawson said the IRT Foundation sought to extend their role as a mentor to businesses, in areas such as promoting the potential recruitment of older workers. 

“It’s not one size fits all, but we need to get in and work with businesses to understand what are the opportunities they have available that align to that ageing workforce,” he said. 

“We also want to work with government to reinstate positions such as the government-appointed employment facilitator that was active here in the Illawarra.”

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