Lateral thinking needed at a time of change

The coronavirus pandemic has upended job security for millions of people and many are feeling restricted in their choices of careers.

Not only are people scrambling to find employment after losing jobs, prospective university students are facing the pressure of fees doubling for some courses while halving for others, which may influence their options depending on their finances.

Marketing professional Wendy Robertson moved into contract work    during the pandemic.
Marketing professional Wendy Robertson moved into contract work during the pandemic.

Marketing professional Wendy Robertson moved into contract work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms Robertson said the business she had been working for had shed jobs because of the pandemic.


“That made my role redundant and I turned to contracting as a way of figuring out what I’m going to do next. I’ve been doing it a while now and I’m really loving it.”

Ms Robertson is now working on marketing projects as a contractor. She has two part-time contracting roles, working from home.

“The message to people finding themselves in the same situation is to have an open mind around exploring contracting as an opportunity to a future full-time opportunity or something that can expose you to … new career pathways.”

While companies have always employed contractors, Ms Robertson said “there’s probably more of it now because of a range of different scenarios”.

“There are lots more jobs being advertised as contract roles.”

Labour market expert Professor John Buchanan from the University of Sydney said downturns in the past have usually resulted in employment changes.

“With the downturn of the 1980s, you had the big shift to casual employment,” he said.

“The downturn of the early 1990s the big shift was to under-employment and involuntary part-time work. So there will be something like that coming through, whether it is contractors or labour hire. It will vary.”

Christopher Ouizeman, chief executive of recruitment company Drake International, said an increasing number of businesses are moving towards a more “dynamic mix of flexible and project-based contract personnel”.

Mr Ouizeman said in times of economic uncertainty, companies often turn to flexible staffing solutions. He said a growing number of Drake International’s clients are managing the uncertainty of the COVID-19 economy by using a flexible contract-based workforce.

“During COVID-19, companies have realised that contracting offers them immediate access to a skill set without having to make a long-term commitment,” he said. “This enables companies to manage costs by adjusting staff sizes up and down based on business requirements, improve cash flow and provides managers with a resourcing option during a hiring freeze.”

Mr Ouizeman said Drake International has experienced a 49 per cent increase in demand for contractor work in the past six months.

“Drake International’s industrial division has seen close to a 50 per cent increase in demand for supply chain contractors in 2020 when compared to 2019,” he said.

“Currently 90 per cent of Drake International’s IT & digital division vacancies are for contractors. This is a 50 per cent increase on last year’s numbers.

“One of Drake International’s large clients in the technology space has converted all permanent vacancies into temporary contracts as a way of managing risk during economic uncertainty.”

LinkedIn data shows that more job-seekers are interested in remote work.

“Looking at job postings on LinkedIn across key APAC markets, we can see an uptick in remote job postings and applications,” a spokesman for LinkedIn said.

According to LinkedIn data for Australia, remote work postings had more than tripled between March and May this year. Job applications for remote work had increased more than four-fold.

The LinkedIn spokesman said its Australian data shows that jobs with the most hires include project managers, software engineers and business development managers. He said skills in most demand included teaching, account management, curriculum development, business analysis and JavaScript.

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