The next version of the CES mustn’t be designed by bureaucrats in a bubble aka what do clients really need?

In the rapidly evolving world of work, the needs of job seekers and those venturing into self-employment are becoming increasingly complex.  As we look toward the next iteration of Workforce Australia with the Commonwealth Employment Services (CES), it’s crucial to consider an innovative approach that addresses not just the technical aspects of employment but also the personal and social facets that contribute to a successful and sustainable career or business.

Drawing from insights shared in Senate Committee reports, various media reports, work with clients and many rich in person discussions, this post aims to outline the essentials that should be incorporated into the future version of employment services in Australia.

Firstly, let’s start with individuals who are seeking work or as providers refer to, people “on the caseload”.

Comprehensive Business or Career Action Plan

At the core of any successful employment or entrepreneurial venture is a well-thought-out and flexible plan.  Clients need access to resources and “Get Stuff Done” support to create actionable, personalised business or career action plans. These plans should not only outline steps to achieve professional goals but also consider personal growth and development milestones.  Whilst there may be some common ground across multiple clients, we don’t want a cookie cutter approach, but we do want an agile, startup style, rather than old fashioned, out of date pages and pages.

Experienced Coaches and Mentors

The value of having a coach or mentor who has walked the path cannot be overstated.  Clients benefit immensely from guidance provided by professionals who have not only theoretical knowledge but also practical experience in their fields.  These mentors can offer invaluable insights, shortcuts to overcoming common obstacles, and moral support that keeps clients motivated through the ups and downs of their career or business journey.  And it can’t just be a check on, it needs to be a check in with empathy, more than a chat, with outcomes and aspiration.

Building Confidence and Capacity

A significant barrier to employment or running a business for many is a lack of confidence, often stemming from previous setbacks or the intimidating prospect of entering a new field. New services must prioritise confidence-building programs that are practical and focussed.

If the Australian Government is going to take these services back in house and provide them, then it’s essential for the Department itself to demonstrate capacity and capabilities, setting a standard of excellence and reliability that clients can trust, with real experience.

Addressing Basic and Complex Needs

The journey to employment or self-employment is not just about the job itself; it’s about creating a stable foundation from which individuals can thrive.  This includes ensuring clients have access to basic healthcare, such as dental visits and GP appointments, and mental health support, including the design of mental health plans.  This can be linked to confidence too, for example, people that need dental work, but can’t afford it does often have a big impact on their employability.

Furthermore, practical support like assistance with transportation costs, professional / appropriate clothing, shoes, PPE, and necessary equipment can remove barriers that might otherwise prevent someone from pursuing their career goals.  Clients may need their car serviced, brake replaced to be safe to travel to work, and petrol put in the tank, especially if they live in regional areas.

An example I observed was Workskil Australia supporting a client who was long term unemployed and wanted to start a business in a regional town.  This took the form of business cards, logo, uniform, equipment, accommodation to travel to another town for an intensive development opportunity, which was life changing for this client.  He now earns in 1 quarter what would have taken him years, and has turned his life around, now becoming an employer.

Social and Emotional Support

The importance of social and emotional well-being in the context of employment cannot be underestimated.  Initiatives that foster networking, friendships, and a sense of community can significantly impact someone’s mental health and overall motivation.  Simple gestures like buying someone a coffee, offering encouragement, or even providing a hug can make a substantial difference in someone’s day, potentially lifting them out of loneliness or depression.  This support needs to be part of the overall funded picture.

As we see the next version of Workforce Australia develop, as the Commonwelth Employment Services, it’s clear that a multi-faceted approach is needed—one that not only focuses on the practical aspects of employment and entrepreneurship but also addresses the holistic needs of individuals and employers.  By incorporating these elements into the framework, we can create a more supportive, efficient, and compassionate system that truly meets the needs of job seekers and aspiring entrepreneurs, paving the way for a more inclusive and prosperous future for all Australians.

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