Comparing courses. Photo: Fairfax Graphics
Anybody who works in manufacturing, mining or media, just to name three industries, knows what it is like to live and work in a sector that is rapidly shrinking and changing.
When they started out, most people employed in these industries believed they would be there until retirement.
This is no longer the case, but it is nothing new. People have had to deal with major structural changes and losing their livelihoods for hundreds of years, but that doesn't help the workers who have recently found themselves at Centrelink.
Belinda Rossi knows the meaning of the word busy.
The good news is that the labour market is starting to improve. Against all expectations, the unemployment rate fell in March to 5.8 per cent from 6.1 per cent and, although most of the jobs growth was in part-time employment, Seek, which operates one of the largest online job sites in Australia, says there was a 2.1 per cent increase in job advertisements during the 12 months to March.
Whatever field you work in, it would be prudent to have some idea of how that industry is fairing in a global sense. Everyone can benefit from diversifying his or her skill sets, reinventing themselves and future-proofing. Doing this early enough can help you avoid unexpected unemployment.
Future-proofing your career can take many forms. Options include studying a different field mid-career, taking on part-time jobs, going freelance or starting your own business.
Rebecca Fraser is an outplacement and career transition consultant and vice-president at the Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA), which represents career coaching professionals.
She says the biggest career change she assisted with was helping a nurse to become a police officer, but changes need not be that extreme. An understanding of where jobs are being created is a good start.
Careers of the future
Every year the Australian Government Department of Employment puts together projections for employment growth over the next five years.
The projections are based on Australian Bureau of Statistics data and the government's projections in its mid-year economic and fiscal outlook.
In its latest projections, it forecasts employment to grow by 838,100 jobs, or 7.2 per cent. The biggest increases in that time are expected to occur in the healthcare and social assistance sectors, with 229,400 jobs forecast, followed by education and training, with 118,800 jobs.
The high jobs growth expected in healthcare and social assistance is at least partly a result of the ageing population. The proportion of Australians aged 65 or over is forecast to increase from about one in seven in 2012 to one in four by 2060, according to a Productivity Commission report released last November.
That ageing population is demanding more and better-quality health and medical services.
Specialist medical services and diagnostic imaging services are two sub-industries that IBISWorld health industries analyst David Whytcross says will benefit from our rising life expectancies.
''Specialist medical revenue is forecast to increase by an annualised 4.5 per cent over the next five years, as the incidence of complex, chronic health issues requiring specialist attention is greater among older people,'' Whytcross says.
''The diagnostic imaging services industry is forecast to expand by 4.6 per cent annualised over the next five years, as demand for procedures such as PET-CT scans surges.''
Nursing homes and accommodation for the aged are another sub-industry that has good employment prospectives. Working in aged-care homes is one option, but demand for at-home care is also rising.
Employment in the retail trade is also forecast to increase by 98,200 jobs in the next five years.
IBISWorld analyst Lauren Magner says competition in retail will be fierce and businesses will need to become more efficient, but it is the growth of online shopping that may create job opportunities.
''As online retailers typically have lower overhead costs, they are able to offer consumers more competitive pricing than their bricks-and-mortar counterparts. This, combined with easy delivery options, will fuel the demand for online products,'' she says.
Professional, scientific and technical services (88,700) and construction (83,500) are the final two industries of the top five that are projected to provide more than two-thirds of employment growth in the next five years.
The CDAA took part in a recent Reinvent Your Career expo in Brisbane, where 20 of its members provided short career and CV check-ups.
''We had in excess of 250 people looking to consider their career and resume checks,'' says Greg Parker, national manager of the CDAA . ''We know that we could have reached a lot more people if we had sufficient resources.''
Parker himself was forced to reinvent his career after he was made redundant in the banking and finance industry. The older you are, the more difficult it can be to change careers, and he tells people that you have to be prepared to put in the time.
CDAA members and qualified career professionals aim to help people by analysing their skill set, which may include a psychometric test.
People also need to understand how best to use their network of relationships.
''There is no question in the employment world and the career world that strong networks remain a fundamental and underlying basis of success,'' Parker says.
Fraser came into career practitioning from IT and is now vice-president for public affairs and membership of the CDAA's Victorian chapter.
''When people make a transition, they need to be aware that it will take them longer,'' she says. To help them in that transition, she looks at a range of factors, including experience in other sectors, skill sets and interests.
She is currently helping one professional who worked on the production line in the automotive industry. His knowledge of the industry, production and supply chain makes him suited for work in warehousing generally, and can be applied across industries.
He will have to get his forklift licence, but he is well aware of the limitations of his career and wants to get out of the industry before he is forced to.
Fraser says a consultation with a good career consultant costs about $250.
The CDAA is a member organisation of the Career Industry Council of Australia, which has a series of standards for career development professionals. Organisations such as these generally require members to undertake ongoing professional development, which should include study or analysis of current industry trends.
Career professionals should also be able to explain electronic recruitment tools to you. For example, some organisations' e-recruitment tools, which are designed to filter through the hundreds of resumes they receive online, cannot read information inside brackets, and others may not be able to read tables, Fraser says.
There is a good chance that whatever you decide to do, training and further study will be required, but, with the advent of Massive Open Online Courses, it is now much easier to study in your own time at your own pace.
Seek, through its training arm Seek Learning, offers a service that helps you narrow down what kind of course might be the most appropriate for your career path.
Its consultants are not career practitioners, but they do have an industry-specific knowledge of the courses provided by Seek's partners, including universities, Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges and short-course providers.
''There are some big decisions about which direction you want to take your career,'' says Tony Barrett, general manager of Seek Learning. ''We try to provide some tools and information to help you make that decision.''
The next step is working out the best way to achieve your goals. For many older people, the commitments of a full-time course may be out of the question, so they need a part-time course that can be undertaken at their own pace.
Seek Learning is paid a fee from the referral education partner and, for most courses, students pay the same going through Seek as if they had approached the education provider directly, Barrett says.
If a student is better off going directly to the education provider to access a subsidised course, a consultant will let them know, he says.
Undertaking further education comes at a cost, of course, but a more secure professional future at the end of it could be just the kind of return you need.
If you want to move into education and become a teacher, you could undertake a graduate diploma of education or a master of teaching or education. Depending on where you take the course, the graduate diploma would probably be a one-year course, costing between $10,000 and $18,000. The two-year master's course would cost nearly double that.
If you want to teach at university, you could consider the graduate certificate in tertiary teaching, offered through Open Universities Australia for $8000, plus administration costs.
The average starting postgraduate salary for all graduate certificate, diplomas and masters' courses in education is $70,215, which is slightly higher than the undergraduate starting average salary of $53,871, according to the Hobson Good Universities Guide to Postgraduate Education 2014.
The employment rate is reasonable too. Only 20 per cent of graduates were still looking for work four months after they completed their degree. By comparison, the number still looking for work in accounting and communications was 28 per cent and 48 per cent respectively.
As these statistics show, investing in additional education can pay good dividends in terms of your employment prospects - as long as you choose the right course and industry to begin with.
Busy shift from finance to teaching
As a single mother of two children - daughter Taylor, aged 10, and son Liam, 8 - Belinda Rossi already had her hands full. But a decision to take on full-time study this year has brought new meaning to the word busy.
Belinda had a successful career in sales and marketing in the finance industry in the US, but after returning to Australia four years ago realised it would be difficult pursuing a similar career here. The industry had gone through major structural upheaval since the global financial crisis. Jobs were fewer and not as well remunerated, and she could only see the industry shrinking further.
"Another reason I didn't go back into finance in Australia ... I would be working so much harder and making less," she says. She had always been interested in art and visual arts, so she decided to go back to university and study to become a visual arts teacher. She is enrolled in the bachelor of teaching in secondary education at UTS.
Belinda also wanted a career that would be flexible while she was raising her children. She receives Austudy and financial assistance with after school care. "Financially it is very hard. What is difficult is finding the hours to do all the assignments, and sitting and helping the kids with their homework," she says. She is looking forward to a career at the end that will keep her employed for many years to come. But for now, Belinda is focusing on her first prac-teaching stint.