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The story behind Seniors@work

From Ian Fraser of Seniors@work:

I am a Senior myself and have worked since my early twenties in a variety of roles, mostly in the broader hospitality field and nearly all in management positions. In 2007, I suffered a major hiccup when what can loosely be described as a commercial fraud was committed on the company which I managed and had a significant shareholding in, and which could inevitably result in an immediate, terrible impact on a good number of our clients.

We had to make a very quick decision to either walk away from a horrible situation or dig deep and endeavour to look after our clients and give them the opportunity to enjoy what they had paid for. My other directors and I unhesitatingly took the latter course of action. The result was that we could absolutely wake up each morning and look at ourselves in the mirror and feel okay,  but it was a very costly call initially to borrow funds/increase our mortgages for what was required to give our clients their experience especially when the “fraudster” declared himself bankrupt and then, after many years of delays and legal costs, our insurance company didn’t stump up, we had to wind up our company.

This cost me personally many hundreds of thousands of dollars, my salary, my house, my shareholding and also my ability to compete in the business that I was in as I no longer had the ability or funds nor desire to take any risks in order to compete for contracts/work in the business environment that I knew and had worked in for the previous 10-12 years.

Long and short – I needed to find other, new work. Initially I didn’t think that this was going to be too difficult as after all, I had built up a range of different skills and experience over 30 plus years. I did pick up some contract work which I enjoyed for a number of years and bits of consultancy type work here and there but nothing like enough to match what I had been earning and to meet our financial requirements.

During that time I had applied for over 75 positions, some management, many not and not all in that broad hospitality field. I had just one face to face interview, and 4-5 phone discussions which did not go any further. With the feedback I received, I was a combination of over qualified, not suitably qualified to meet the role description or clearly not what those employers were looking for. Maybe my skill set wasn’t what people were looking for, but I still had the strong belief that I was “employable” and certainly had a good number of quality years of work in me. I was fit and healthy (I do believe in wellbeing and walk for an hour most days and try to eat well!)

I had registered with the major jobsites and also with some recruitment agencies and yes, I received loads of job alerts which did trigger applications from me….but no success. I suddenly thought that there might be a jobsite around which would assist people like me in finding work – I couldn’t find one operating in New Zealand. I did find sites offshore and especially in the USA….so I thought to myself…”There should be a site, why don’t I do this myself?”

I started researching the subject of older workers, acknowledging my own experiences, and sure enough, it became clear that older workers, and not just here in New Zealand, were struggling to find suitable work opportunities and that there was some bias/discrimination towards older workers. So clearly there would be challenges in setting up a jobsite for older workers, but I was by now committed and determined. My next step was to put a stake in the ground and make the decision that the jobsite would be totally dedicated to Seniors and those over 60 as I felt that those aged between 60 and 65 also struggle to find work opportunities.

I started off by putting my thoughts into a concept type document and sent this to the Minister for Seniors (why not start at the top!). I received a positive, encouraging response from the Minister who referred me to the Office for Seniors who have also been supportive. I was also referred to a number of people who worked/had some involvement with seniors and they likewise were very helpful and gave me good advice.

In fact I have received so much time, energy, feedback and advice from so many lovely, kind and supportive people I have made contact with, contacts they have put me in touch with in the lead up to the site going live – not just people already involved with seniors but also HR and recruitment professionals. Sincere thanks to all of them.

I also floated the concept with a cross section of businesses and received a 90% positive response which was really encouraging. After more research, knocking on doors and seeking and receiving feedback, it was clear that the following applied:

  • There are fewer younger aged workers coming through in New Zealand. In addition, New Zealand has a declining birth rate, which is currently 1.81 and therefore below replacement fertility levels.
  • There are skills shortages in many industries
  • Many of us over 60 are struggling to find work

 

Research showed that older workers….

  • Bring a strong work ethic to their jobs
  • Stay with their employers for many more years than younger workers
  • Bring years of diverse experience and problem-solving skills to their position.
  • Have built up a set of highly honed skill sets built up over 40 plus years of working
  • Provide maturity and life skills and experience which cannot be underestimated in their value

When you take all of the above into consideration, with a rapidly changing demographic and dynamic with our ageing but physically and mentally fitter population together with some identified skills shortages in certain business sectors and declining birth rate, if flexibility and open-mindedness are displayed, both by employers and also those over 60, this will ensure that we have a chance to successfully manage the workforce now and in the future.

No one is suggesting that anyone over 60 who wants a job should, as of right, get one....of course not, as standard recruiting and employment processes need to be followed, but it would be great if more employers actually encouraged older job seekers to apply for positions they need to fill.

For job seekers over 60 we have tried to make this a jobsite with a difference and provide as much advice and assistance we can to make it easier for you to find suitable work opportunities. This includes our simple Job Seeker Guide through the site and our Work Readiness info pack. But we also wanted to go outside of a traditional jobsite’s scope and parameters, so we have invited people with a strong desire to work with and assist seniors to give us articles and posts for our Blog site and we have our Recipe and Health and Wellbeing sections. And remember that every position posted on this site is guaranteed to be suitable for all of us over 60.

For employers we are the only jobsite dedicated to job seekers over 60 and the talent, skills and experience that they bring. We have tried to listen carefully to the feedback, advice and recommendations that we have received and our Skills Register is totally a feature incorporated in this site as a result of this feedback. We will always welcome your thoughts and feedback.

As I see it, the reality is that older workers will have a very important role to play in the workplace going forward for so many reasons and this reality is in fact an opportunity - the reality and opportunity can work hand in hand in today’s ever-changing work environment – there is the opportunity not just for older job seekers but very much also the opportunity for employers to embrace/buy into the reality and I say it again, opportunity, to engage with and have strategies in place for recruiting and taking on older workers who have so much to offer the workplace – a win-win for all concerned.

At Seniors@work, we are committed to bring together employers/businesses with qualified, experienced workers who happen to be Seniors and others over 60.