By Levina Mahendran
A Federal Court decision that means Australian employers aren’t compelled to give local workers first preference for jobs, is forcing many older employees to reconsider going back to study to re-tool their skills.
The controversial decision has primarily affected the mining industry, and several trade unions recently took to the streets of Perth to protest the decision.
Now, some workers have decided that changing their career path would do them some good.
Forty five-year-old ex-FIFO worker Martin Kingsley, said he lost his job at the mines as a long hole driller when he injured his arm on a family vacation and could not go back to work.
“I’m getting old and so when I got hurt they replaced me pretty quick,” he said.
On Friday, Mr Kingsley was at the Skills West Expo looking at picking up a new trade.
“I’ve always been in construction, but I really love cars so I was thinking of going back to school and maybe becoming a mechanic. It’s a change of environment that I think will be good.”
The Skills West Expo is an annual event organised by the Western Australian Government, in conjunction with The West Australian, and is attended by thousands seeking information about career and training options.
Many education institution exhibitors say they’ve seen an increase in mature-age student enquires.
“We’ve certainly seen a large number of mature age students at the exhibition, we’ve spoken to at least 30 today alone and we’re expecting more on the weekend,” said Jade Castle, a Murdoch University Future Student Officer.
Certain vocational industries, such as nursing and hospitality, don’t face the same challenges as trade workers in the mining industry.
“I haven’t heard of competition, not in the nursing sector but we do get a lot of internationals.
“There are enough nursing jobs out there for everyone,” said Julie Manning, Health Program Manager at Challenger TAFE.
Culinary lecturer at Challenger TAFE, Chef David Mopin, said his industry faced a different situation.
“In hospitality, we are always looking for new talent and it doesn’t matter what age they are or where they are from.
“If they can do the job and do it well, we want them. So yes, it is competitive,” he said.
The main reasons cited for trade workers returning to further their education were: having a change of heart; wanting to upgrade skills and qualifications; or being unable to get back into their industry after being injured.
The Skills West Expo was held at the Perth Convention Centre from September 18 to 20.