Unemployed ManOne of the greatest challenges for many security companies is finding quality personnel. In fact, over the last few years, this has become one of the largest and most frequent complaints from the operations managers across many of the nation’s largest guarding services organisations. Despite this, there are currently large groups of mature-aged men who have been made redundant throughout Australia who are now looking for a new career. Interestingly, many of these men have not considered a job in security because they see security as an industry as “just for bouncers”.

There is a strong call from within Australia for a more effective system of re-employment support for these men. We need to ensure the approach to working with these men is suitable to their needs and has effective follow-up across their re-employmentandlife/career transition pathways,as well as theirongoing personal wellbeing.

There is an enormous opportunity for the security industry to:

  • tap directly into a great pool of potential quality personnel for the industry
  • be a national leader in re-employment support.

Mature-aged men and redundancy

At the moment, there are tens of thousands, if not more, skilled men aged from their late 30s to 60s (mature-aged men) who have been made redundant as a result of changes in the workplace, such as the downturn of manufacturing, increased job complexity, and the impact of technology.Suddenly, these men find themselves out of work.

In the past, they might have made a call or two and got straight back into work – but not anymore. Hiring is out-sourced and done through the internet, required skills have changed, the jobs have gone altogether, and/or the men might not be up to the physical demands of heavy labour any longer. So, while many of these men have a good work ethic, good skills and good work history, they find that weeks, then months, then often whole years go by and they still cannot get work. The average time out of work for mature-age is now 62 weeks. Many have no idea about the difference between the government-funded employment agencies and private recruitment and labour hire.

It is generally accepted that mature-aged unemployed are disadvantaged from employment and there are research papers and government reports that document this. Research shows that as few as 5 per cent of employers use the government-funded employment agencies. The current government-funded system is built around a business model that effectively disadvantages the skilled, work-ready clients; they are usually classified as a Stream 1 client and get very little support.

Yetmany of these men are skilled, industrious and keen to keep working; they may well be an ideal fit for the security industry.

Unfortunately, many of these men have little idea of what the possibilities are. They hear talk in the employment sector of things like ‘career transition pathways’ but there is little methodical support to help direct these men along new pathways including pathways to entirely new careers.

This challenge can be a great opportunity for the security industry

With a little initiative and leadership, there may be an opportunity for the security industry to access these men and sell itself directly to men who may be prepared to consider security if they knew there were options outside “being a bouncer”. The industry can promote the range of job opportunities in security outside the ‘bouncer’ sector; the workplace conditions of some of these jobs may suit some mature-aged men as they step away from heavy labour or longer hours in the corporate world.

There is strong support to approach the issue of unemployed mature-aged men (aged late-30s and above) in a different and more appropriate way; to provide a genuine ‘men-friendly’ approach to support unemployed/redundant mature-age men and to encourage them to consider new options. The recent (2014) OECD Report on Employment and Skills Strategies in Australia calls for better integration between training, employers, recruitment and job-creation opportunities.

OECD Report Employment and Skills Strategies in Australia 2014

Executive Summary

Towards an action plan for jobs in Australia: Recommendations and best practices

Stimulating job creation at the local level requires integrated actions across the employment, training and economic development portfolios. Co-ordinated place-based policies can help workers find suitable jobs, while also contributing to shaping the demand, thereby stimulating job creation and productivity. This requires flexible policy management framework, information and integrated partnerships which leverage the efforts of employment, training and economic development stakeholders.

And there is a strong call from within Australia to ensure the approach to supporting these men has both re-employment support as well as support for their ongoing personal wellbeing.These two aspects are actually very closely related.

A model being considered for national replication has a strong follow-up component to support these men. This follow-up component is a vital part of the model and provides industries with a chance for valuable ‘give-and-take’; industry can contribute to the information and opportunities for men and can then have more direct access to this pool of motivated and experienced workers. The model recommends the follow-up include a NFP/Corporate partnership that contributes directly to practical support initiatives across both job search and personal wellbeing for these men.

The current government-funded employment system assumes their skilled clients (generally ‘Stream 1’) are ‘job-ready’ and able to get their own work. Theyare job-ready, but the dramatic changes in the workplace have also impacted on the job search process itself. And many of the mature-aged men, despite having high skill levels and work experience, are often unfamiliar with even basic job search processes for finding and applying for jobs. They are given very little resources and support on how to investigate different options that may be available. A federally-funded pilot re-employment program last year, the ‘45 + Program’, demonstrated that with the right approach, many of these highly skilled and motivated men can be encouraged to consider new career possibilities.

The model under consideration has the men-friendly workshops set within a context of valuable current information as input for the workshops and strong Follow-up support including access to private labour hire/recruitment, as well as services to support the ongoing personal wellbeing of these men.

Unemployment hits men hard

The issue of unemployment for mature-aged men is a major national challenge. For many men, their work is their self-identity. To be made redundant can be a major blow to the self-identity for men. To then not be able to follow-up and find work for extended periods can create a downward spiral of disillusionment and disintegration of self-esteem. The devastation can affect white collar and blue collar men equally.

A more effective system of re-employment support with an evidence-based approach suitable to the needs of men can be a better way of helping these men keep optimistic and productive – and reduce the likelihood of falling away into despair.

And international research shows that unemployment is a strong factor in suicide.

A recent article in The New York Times about unemployment for mature-aged people hit the nail on the head when discussing this issue:

“Even as they do all the things they’re told to do – network, improve those computer skills, find a new passion and turn it into a job – many struggle with the question of whether their working life as they once knew it is essentially over.”

In Australia, one of the largest groups of all suicides by number and rates is unemployed people in their 30s, 40s and 50s – most of these are men. And while depression is a concern for the community, in the case of unemployed men, labelling their distress as a mental health issue often does not help – it can actually make things worse.

Recent research echoes strong international calls to place suicide prevention outside the ‘mental health’ paradigm:

“It may be the case that common suicide prevention strategies, such as encouraging greater use of mental health services by men and focusing on raising awareness of links between mental illness and suicide, are unlikely to lead to effective interventions for individuals.”1

We need a new approach to this whole issue. The appropriate intervention for these men is a more effective system of re-employment support. These are good men, and they deserve the opportunity to continue their constructive contribution.

Recommendations for the Security Industry:

The Opportunity

Many of these men lose their sense of purpose, so we, as an industry, need to help them find that purpose again. A new career can rejuvenate them. And the right professional opportunity can help them to resurrect their self-identity.

The security industry can take a leadership role, particularly amongst male-dominated industries, in supporting the implementation of a more effective evidence-based model of re-employment support for unemployed and redundant mature-aged men.

Contribution to the development of a NFP/Corporate partnership for follow-up support that integrates with a best-practice model of re-employment/job search support will be a major step forward on in this issue – as an industry, and as a nation.

Key Sources:

Employment issues:
Age Barriers at Work (Australian Law Reform Commission)
Survey of Employers’ Recruitment Experiences
Ageing and the Barriers to Labour Force Participation in Australia

Suicide prevention:

McPhedran, S. and De Leo, D.(2013) ‘Miseries suffered, unvoiced, unknown? Communication of suicidal intent by men in “rural” Queensland, Australia’. The American Association of Suicidology Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior,Dec. 2013.
Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23829683
Pathways to Despair
Men, Unemployment and Suicide

Anthony Smith
Anthony Smith is a consultant in Social Marketing with a focus on men’s issues and suicide prevention. He is currently an Industry Partner to the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention (CRESP).