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Never too old

Skills developed in one role can often be transferred to a completely different field, writes Matthew Benns.

Finding a bleeding woman in a car park and having no idea how to help her completely changed David Colliers life.

It was not a good feeling not being able to help, says the 53-year-old who was working as a blind fitter at the time.

The next week my company said they needed people to train for first aid in the workplace and I jumped at the chance.

He found he loved first aid so much that he volunteered at  St John Ambulance.

I have done an awful lot of jobs in my life, including selling hardware which gave me skills in dealing with the public, Collier says.

His volunteering also coincided with a lack of fulfilment in his everyday work. He was 49 at the time and felt it was time for a change. He looked at the skills he has communication and first aid knowledge and decided to transfer them into a new career.

You are never too old to change careers, he says. There are plenty of opportunities out there for older workers.

He took an e-learning course to become a trained teacher and started working for St John as a first aid trainer.

I took a pay cut at first but now my pay is higher than it was, he says. More importantly, the rewards are greater and I am a far happier person than I was, without the stress. If just one person I train helps someone else with the real first aid skills I have taught then that is reward enough for me.

He says he identified his transferrable skills by concentrating on the things he was already doing and enjoying in this case teaching first aid and applying them to his new career.

The Human Resources Manager at St John NSW, Graham Barker, says: ST John NSW believes transferrable skills and tangible qualifications add value to the delivery of our first aid training courses. The skills people learn from previous roles in other organisations, such as communications and presentation skills are an asset for St John. Just like first aid, these are life skills that you take with you from job to job. It is an
important skills that you take home with you and use outside the workplace. Learning first aid is a great way to develop your skill base and adds value to your current or future employers.

The director of recruiting experts Hays, Grahame Doyle, says a national skills shortage means that employers are keen to look at potential employees with skills that could migrate to a new career.

Those employers who previously ruled out the possibility of recruiting candidates with transferrable skills are now starting to adjust their thinking as the skills shortage hits home, he says. When considering what skills are transferrable we advise employers to look at what is really essential and what is desirable in a potential candidate and to become more flexible in terms of a candidates background in response to the shrinking pool of talent. Then you can consider the candidates who are the right cultural fit and have the desired behavioural and transferrable skills, not just the specific background initially required.

By considering transferrable skills, employers open their vacancy to a larger pool of candidates who have solid experience, suit the company and can become a highly valued asset with a little technical training.


This article first appeared in The Reinvent Your Career feature in The Sydney Morning Herald on 23rd October 2010


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