Gradual retirement to help skills shortages

critical minerals

New research from Edith Cowan University (ECU) shows that moving into retirement gradually could be the key to helping with the skilled worker shortage impacting the mining industry.

Easing into retirement could also benefit workers by making the transition easier while keeping valued employees in the workforce.

ECU Centre for Work and Wellbeing director Professor Tim Bentley conducted the research and said the shortage was exacerbated because older workers were leaving the workforce in greater numbers than young people were entering it, and constraints in recruiting skilled migrant workers due to COVID-19.

“An industry that should be expanding just doesn’t have the workforce to do what it needs to do, so how can we better accommodate and retain the older part of the workforce within the sector rather than lose them?” Bentley said.

“Who is to say that your working life ends at exactly a certain date – the idea is that you create conditions that make it attractive for older workers to stay in the industry.”

Graduated retirement to allow experienced workers to pass on their skills to future industry leaders is crucial for helping the current skill shortage, but also for creating capable future leaders.

Understanding the value of older workers and showing them recognition for their work and experience is the first step in creating an environment where the workers feel safe to continue working past the ‘retirement age’ in a part-time role, a less physically and mentally demanding role, or only working day shifts.

“If older workers are exposed to a lot of heavy duties that make them feel like if they continue doing those duties they will have to retire, providing them with opportunities where they can give training or mentoring is important in being able to retain those workers,” Bentley told Australian Mining.

“A lot of the older workers in mining are still quite capable to do the more physically and mentally challenging jobs, but perhaps they just need more breaks or to have a conversation with their manager about their needs moving forward.”

This research follows the recent CCIWA Business Confidence Survey for the 2021 September quarter which found that nine in 10 resources businesses identify skills shortages as a barrier to business.

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