Employers’ Engagement with Employment Services in Australia

Jo Ingold, Angela Knox, Luke Macaulay, and Sherrica Senewiratne reflect on their article, “‘What about me?’: An analysis of employers’ engagement with employment service providers in Australia,” published in the Journal of Industrial Relations.

Employment services are focused on assisting people outside the labor market into employment. This includes under-leveraged talent such as carers, mature age and young people, and people with disabilities as well as culturally and linguistically diverse and indigenous communities. Critical to this aim is the engagement of employers to obtain opportunities for currently unemployed candidates. However, little is known about what compels employers to engage with employment services and the providers who deliver them. Governments internationally – including Australia – are constantly looking for evidence to improve the function of employment services. But there has tended to be a focus on the supply-side (candidates) though in recent years there has been a refreshing turn to the ‘demand-side’ (i.e., employers).

This article presents insights into what employers perceive as the benefits of engaging with employment service providers. The research was undertaken in Australia during 2020 and 2021. It is never easy to access employers and hiring managers, but it was particularly challenging during the pandemic. However, the insights that employers gave us were very rich and enlightening.

We found that benefits could be divided into human resource (HR) benefits, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) benefits, and financial benefits. We were interested to find that HR and CSR benefits work in combination and balanced each other rather than competing. We also found that financial benefits could be divided into cost savings associated with increased efficiencies as well as direct financial assistance to candidates and employers, as well as wage subsidies. We were very intrigued by a novel finding that wage subsidies could help micro businesses expand to employing businesses. This could be explored in future research.

Headshots of Jo Ingold, Angela Knox, Luke Macaulay, and Sherrica Senewiratne.
Left to right: Jo Ingold, Angela Knox, Luke Macaulay, and Sherrica Senewiratne

We hope that this article provides insights not only for scholars interested in labor market policies but also provide evidence for policymakers and practitioners involved in employment services. There is currently a first principles review of the Workforce Australia employment service in Australia and a similar Commission in the UK. The demand-side of employment services is a growing field, so we hope that this article contributes to the debate but also provides inspiration to others and compels policymakers, practitioners, and employers to foster better pathways into good quality jobs for many currently excluded from them.

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Jo Ingold, Angela Knox, Luke Macaulay, and Sherrica Senewiratne

Jo Ingold is an associate professor of human resource management at Deakin Business School. Her academic research focuses on employability and skills programs (particularly employer engagement); and the workplace inclusion of under-served labor market groups.

Angela Knox is an associate professor of work and organization at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research interests include job quality, precarious employment, skills and migration.

Luke Macaulay is a research fellow at Deakin University's Centre for Refugee Employment, Advocacy, Training, and Education (CREATE). As an interdisciplinary researcher, Luke has worked and published in a variety of areas including vocational behaviour, education, forced migration studies, and cultural studies.

Sherrica Senewiratne is a registered psychologist and a current PhD candidate at Swinburne University. Her area of research focuses on leadership and wellbeing.

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