HOT TOPIC – APRIL / MAY 2011
By OzVPM Director, Andy Fryar
OK, so maybe the title of my hot topic this month sounds a little like an instalment of an Indiana Jones movie and perhaps I’ve dramatised the title just a little – but it got your attention didn’t it!
Sadly, unlike Hollywood, my story is not a fairytale!
Three years ago I attended a forum in the northern suburbs of Adelaide where a guest presenter from Adelaide University, Eric Parnis, quoted some frightening statistics around the projected availability of paid workers in South Australia over coming years.
Quoting figures from a report written by Michael Keating on workforce development in South Australia (released in June 2008), Parnis shared figures which essentially demonstrated that over the decade 2007/08 to 2017/18 that there will be many more paid jobs available in SA than we will have people to fill those roles.
For the purpose of keeping this hot topic brief, I won’t delve into all of the specifics of the report, but I can summarise that the projected ‘gap’ between available jobs and available workers will number in the tens (if not hundreds) of thousands.
I also took the time following the presentation to ask if Eric believed these trends were likely to extend beyond SA, and with a few qualifications, he agreed that this was certainly the case. While I am not sure of exactly how this may be reflected in New Zealand, I’d also not be surprised to find that things are very similar.
If you’d like to further explore the report in detail you can find it at:
On the day that I first heard these statistics, I am sure that I turned a slight shade of grey and nearly fell off my chair, as I immediately thought of what this shortage of paid workers may mean to the availability of volunteer workers over the same period.
For me it was a pretty simple equation and a huge wake up.
If there are not enough people to do all the paid work, you can bet your bottom dollar that the big corporates, the defence force, the government and the mining industry amongst others will find ways to entice younger people into the workforce at an earlier age, create new ways to move long term unemployed people into return to work schemes and entice older Australians to stay in work beyond retirement.
Ever since, I have been sharing these figures as I have travelled the country and trained Volunteer Managers about trends in volunteer availability, because I believe that it is unrealistic for volunteer involving organisations to believe that there is a never ending supply of volunteers running around the country forever more.
Sadly, I think that many people I speak to about these statistics simply believe they won’t be affected by this growing trend and I am sure a good number simply return to their workplace and go on doing what they have always done.
As I write this month’s hot topic I’ve just had the opportunity to spend a few days with my friend, colleague and volunteer management commentator DJ Cronin (check out DJ’s blog at http://djcronin.blogspot.com/)
In a training session DJ presented, he spoke about the problem of ‘inertia’ that we face in volunteer management. That is, too many of us are prone to simply sitting on our hands and not being willing to take any sort of positive or pro-active action to move the profession forward either in their own organisations or more globally.
The theme of inertia kept coming to my mind as I thought of the anticipated challenges which may face volunteer managers in the near future, and so I thought it was time to again give a ‘call to arms’ to anyone reading this article.
I believe that time is short, and that in the next few years we will begin to see volunteer shortages become more common.
Already, since I attended that fateful workshop, the Rudd government announced that by 2023 the Australian retirement age will be raised by two years to 67 years of age. Coincidence?
This week, the Australian Opposition leader Tony Abbot has announced that the national Coalition government will commit to sweeping reforms to the Australian welfare system which will include suspending unemployment benefits in areas where unskilled work is available and making work-for-the dole mandatory for anyone under 50 who has been on unemployment benefits for more than 6 months. In addition, individuals on disability support pensions who are apparently ‘easily curable’ will also be ‘encouraged’ back to work.
Like the rise in the retirement age, these initiatives all point to a push to eventually increase the number of workers filling the shortfall, and in the interim, don’t be surprised if we, as a voluntary sector, become unwitting pawns in the game as many of these individuals are ‘pushed’ into our programs to get them work ready for paid employment.
Who wants to bet Mr Abbott does not supply us with any extra funds for any extra work which may be required of us?
So here is the simple point of this hot topic
Be vigilant and be active!
Identify those trends which may be likely to have an impact on volunteer availability or on the capacity of our programs to cope with extra welfare candidates being ‘pushed’ into volunteering. And if you think there are issues that should be raised, do something about it!
Write to a local MP. Scribble down a letter to the Editor. Respond to online articles and commentaries. Write a blog. Ask your state or national volunteer centre to make a statement on your behalf and on behalf of the sector
In short – break your inertia and voice your opinion
If we as a volunteer management community are not speaking up on behalf of our sector as these new initiatives start to be discussed and implemented, you can certainly guarantee no-one else will speak up on our behalf …and at the end of the day, when we all begin to cry foul, the government will simply say ‘we consulted and no-one said a thing!’
So let’s hear from you
What trends have you noticed that we should be addressing? Do you have tips about how to get active? Any ideas how we encourage each other to become more active? What role should our peak bodies play in all of this? What are YOU going to do?