Empowering mature-age workers with work-ready, digital skills – The Australian Financial Review

This content has been funded by an advertiser and written by the Nine commercial editorial team.
A lack of digital skills is a key barrier preventing many mature-age workers, especially those living with a disability, from finding meaningful work.
“Our workforce participation rates above 65 are low compared to other countries,” notes research from 89 Degrees East. “If nothing changes, by 2039 we will be excluding 250,000 Australians who want to work.”
Arriba Group has developed an innovative program for upskilling older workers, including those with a disability. Arriba Group
Older Australians want more access to training, and greater flexibility about where they work, the research found. Crucially, more than 40 per cent [of those surveyed] report not having the digital confidence and technology skills needed for the jobs of the future.
“Ensuring training programs are practical and relevant to the workplace and area of work is important, and ideally conducted during work hours,” the report notes.
To help plug the gap, the Arriba Group has developed an innovative program that’s upskilling participants, helping them find jobs and stay in the workforce for longer.
“It’s a win-win, because participants can complete the program part-time, they can do it from home, and we are also helping employers with real problems,” says Marcella Romero, the group’s founder and CEO.
Marcella Romero, founder and CEO of the Arriba Group. Arriba Group
SkillRestart is designed for Australians aged over 50 and living with a disability as well as those who have experienced an injury that prevents them from returning to their current job. The hands-on program is taught for 12 weeks, equips participants with a variety of work-ready digital skills, and enables them to work on real-world projects for employers who are seeking suitable mature-age workers.
“Many organisations have moved into virtual or hybrid work environments, and it’s a real disadvantage for job seekers who do not have that experience,” says Michelle Barratt, head of innovation at Arriba Group.
“The expectation from employers is they don’t want to commit a huge amount of resourcing into that upskilling, they want people who are ready to go. So, the SkillRestart program really plugs that gap.”
The idea for the program came after feedback indicated mature-age job seekers with disabilities were lacking digital skills. Multiple focus group discussions involving everybody from job seekers to AimBig frontline job coaches and employers helped identify the workforce’s specific digital literacy needs and ways of bridging the gap.
“It’s a win-win, because participants can complete the program part-time, they can do it from home, and we are also helping employers with real problems.”
Marcella Romero, founder and CEO of Arriba Group
While some job seekers have completed computer skills training in the past, Arriba Group research identified that many digital skills workshops did not prepare participants for the current state of the post-COVID-19 hybrid workplace.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What’s that next step? How do we fill that gap?‘,” Barratt says. “It’s such a major barrier to employment for these mature-age workers. We wanted to create a real, tailored program to support these job seekers to not just overcome digital literacy barriers to work, but to also just improve their quality of life.”
While the program is upskilling participants, it is also helping address ongoing workforce shortages. It’s predicted that more older Australians will have to remain in the workforce for longer, as the number of working-age people (aged 15-64) is projected to fall over the next 40 years. In 2021, approximately 619,000 Australians aged 65 and over were still in work. Government data shows that more than 140,000 job seekers aged 50-plus with a disability currently receive Disability Employment Services (DES) assistance.
The hybrid delivery model includes in-classroom lessons, followed by remote delivery. Each session runs for three hours and includes quizzes, with participants able to check their knowledge through remote access to tutors and regular assessments. Over the course of the program, SkillRestart is designed to improve participants’ digital literacy skills and confidence from entry level through to an advanced understanding.
Early results show the program is having an impact. Participants’ self-assessed confidence in their digital literacy improved from an average score of 3.21 out of 10 to 7.64 out of 10 by the end of the program.
Participants’ lives are also being transformed outside of the workplace. One 60-year-old participant, who had been out of work for six years, applied her new skills to create and use an Excel spreadsheet to plan her daughter’s wedding.
There are plans to roll out SkillRestart across all the Arriba Group’s businesses. Being innovation-driven is a core value for the group, which has landed on the AFR Most Innovative Companies list in the health service category for the past three years.
While the rehabilitation sector embraces innovation, Romero adds that there is still plenty of opportunity for the disability services sector to join the club, and for government to rethink the role innovation plays in the sector as well.
“It’s something that I’m very passionate about,” she says. “Our refreshed company purpose is empowering lives together: everything that we do, we do it together, with participants and stakeholders. We want to continue to embrace that.”
This content has been funded by an advertiser and written by the Nine commercial editorial team.
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