GARRY Heywood knows how tough the local job market is, but for the first time in months he’s finally feeling a bit more positive.
On the day the nation’s official jobless rate was released – remaining at a four-year high of 5.8 per cent for a second consecutive month – The Leader spoke to Mr Heywood at A4e Australia’s Tamworth office.
He was referred to the employment agency through Centrelink at the start of the year, after being a stay-at-home father for the past eight years.
After some negative experiences in trying to return to the workforce, he admits he was sceptical to begin with about just what A4e could do for him.
After doing an initial course designed to help people back into the workforce, Mr Heywood signed up for a certificate III in aged care course through the agency, and from there things started to turn around.
Eight weeks into the 13-week course, he’s preparing to start a work placement with a Tamworth aged-care facility with the prospect of regular work if he and the employer are a good fit.
Mr Heywood said aged care was never something he’d considered before, but trainer assessor Kerry Buchanan could see the years looking after his children – one of whom has behavioural issues – and past employment with a local funeral director made him a good candidate for the industry, in terms of recognising the needs of residents and communicating with their family and friends, and other staff.
It’s an industry, too, she said that was crying out for more males. Mr Heywood is, in fact, the only male in the course.
He admits he worries his size may put prospective employers off, but says A4e has restored some of that confidence.
Sally Simmonds, A4e business leader for the Keepit region (encompassing Tamworth, Manilla and Gunnedah), says Mr Heywood is fairly typical of their average client.
The three agencies have about 1000 jobseekers on their books, aged from 16 to 65, from the long-term unemployed to those in some kind of employment already but looking to change their hours or their entire career.
A4e is a UK-based company that came to Australia, and this region, in July 2009 and Ms Simmonds said the demand for their services increased each year.
In the Keepit region the unemployment rate is 6.3 per cent, compared with an Australian regional average of 6 per cent, and well below the double figures of some parts of Sydney and the South Coast. Ms Simmonds said the three industries with the greatest employment prospects for jobseekers were aged care, meat processing and manufacturing.