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Report shows how Australia’s aquatic workforce provides essential community leadership

Report shows how Australia’s aquatic workforce provides essential community leadership
July 22, 2020

A new National Aquatic Industry Report, published by the Royal Life Saving Society - Australia on behalf of the National Aquatic Industry Safety Committee (NAISC), comes at critical and challenging time for the aquatic industry, which has been significantly impacted by Australia-wide closures following the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Coronavirus outbreaks have led to loss of employment - or a significant reduction in hours - for many of the 67,000 frontline workers, of which almost half are casual employees, three-quarters are female and 40% are between the ages of 18 to 24 years.

Overall, the sector faces an estimated $900 million in lost revenue and $430 million in lost wages in the six months to September 2020.

The report analyses employee insights relating to working life, professional development and future needs of those working in the aquatic industry, a sector which contributes directly to community health, wellbeing and safety, and is thought to provide $2.8 billion in health benefits each year.

It recommends innovative strategies, centred around training and mentoring programs, to enable workers keen to pursue a career in the industry to learn about and move between a range of roles. This, the report says, would create a cohort of multi-skilled workers that have a stronger connection to the employer and greater engagement with the industry through more permanent full- and part-time opportunities.

The report collected data in 2019, and found that most workers cited a positive and more collegiate work atmosphere more highly than improved pay or work conditions, suggesting a committed workforce with a high regard for the positive contribution it made to people’s lives and the local community.

It also found regional workers were working fewer weeks of the year and more seasonally than those employed in the major capital cities. People working in regional areas also thought they had fewer career opportunities than those in major capital cities.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Royal Life Saving Chief Executive, Justin Scarr stated “aquatic facilities are an essential part of community life, providing many social, economic and health benefits to Australians of all ages.

“It is clear that the COVID-19 Pandemic will continue to disrupt the Australian community’s willingness and ability to use these facilities for health, fitness and recreation for some time.”

Acknowledging the importance of Federal Government initiatives to protect jobs during the Coronavirus crisis, Scarr said some schemes could be a catalyst for change, noting “JobKeeper was an industry lifesaver, and provided wage support for around 21,000 full-time, part-time and self-employed staff, and 14,800 casual employees.

“The Government’s JobTrainer scheme is timely and could present significant opportunities to train and develop employees in the aquatic industry. It will help facilitate a robust and sustainable recovery in the sector.”

However, without further Federal Government wage support and additional measures to stimulate community demand for recreational services, a further 20,700 to 23,500 jobs could be at risk and the consequences could be far-reaching for the aquatic industry, Scarr advises “for example, further closures of (or a failure to re-open) many swimming pools in the lead up to summer, a reduction in services and opening hours, particularly in regional communities, and a reduction in staffing, may impact community safety, health, wellbeing and fitness, and will only serve to undermine the future viability of aquatic facilities.”

The National Aquatic Industry Report is based on the National Aquatic Industry Workforce Survey, which was carried out in 2019, and builds on the snapshot of demographic data published in December 2019. Based on this data, the report makes specific recommendations for the aquatic industry across a number of areas, including employee recognition, professional development, job opportunities, regional and remote working, community and diversity, health and safety, leadership and management.

The recommendations in the report will be used to guide discussions among industry representatives on the creation of an Aquatic Industry Workforce Development Plan.

This Plan will contribute to the project’s key objectives to: achieve and share a greater insight and understanding of the aquatic industry workforce; build the capacity and capability of the aquatic industry workforce; and support the development of a strong, sustainable and responsive aquatic industry.

Click here to view the report.

Images: Swim teacher at the Gawler Aquatic Centre (top) and Royal Life Saving Chief Executive Justin Scarr (below).

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