Ready for change: Can the education sector adapt to demographic shifts?

Australia’s demographics are changing. An aging population and a more dynamic workforce present issues to a plethora of sectors, with educational institutions in particular needing to ensure their recruitment strategies are robust and adaptable enough.

The Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) surmised in 2012 that the majority of employed educators across Australia are over 50. Ultimately, when they take up the option to give up work, greater demand will make the talent market more competitive.

Consequently, recruitment strategies of educational institutions – especially those at the tertiary level – should be fortified. So, what are the next steps?

Assess, define and understand the workforce

While there’s no way to predict the future, any change can be better dealt with if organizations have a better understanding of where they currently sit within their respective sector.

Having ways to manage today’s workforce, whether on an individual or departmental level, can set the enterprise off on the right footing, as well as enabling them to anticipate needs going forward.

In the education sector, the higher average age and general level to which the workforce is qualified present challenges.

Recruit and train staff

Research from Business and Economic Research Limited outlined two approaches institutions are taking to address these challenges: transitioning employees from other industries and investing more heavily in foreign recruitment.

Both of these practices have one major thing in common: Any new hires will need thorough and effective training. Alongside casting their nets a little wider to encompass other sectors and global talent, educational establishments must have training at the core of their performance management strategies.

Any one new to the sector may have the sufficient expert knowledge – this is particularly relevant with regards to academics – but getting them up to the standards set by the wider industry and each individual organization will take some work.

Furthermore, training can also prove fruitful if there are internal candidates who would be suitable for promotion. As the demographics of Australia are malleable over time, identifying suitable individuals and beginning the process of further supporting them should begin as soon as possible.

Appeal to candidates

LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends Report explains that it is now more important for organizations to promote themselves. This is largely due to the fact that the most sought-after candidates will have a choice of who they want to work for.

Those in the education sector should take this into consideration due to the fact its workforce is aging. Consequently, there is a potential for tight competition to attract highly skilled educators, with those who have gained a catalogue of experience likely sought after more aggressively by a host of organizations.


HR departments have their work cut out with Australia’s changing demographics, especially as large segments of the workforce retire.

In the education sector, this issue is even more pronounced due a mixture of an aging workforce and a need for extremely skilled and knowledgeable candidates to fill vacated positions.

However, as organizations will have the benefits of being able to draw from other countries and sectors, it’s likely they will be able to deal with the change, provided they start to plan and assess their recruitment strategies today.

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