• Redundant: Perth father faces 'soul-destroying' search
Redundant: Perth father faces 'soul-destroying' search
07 Aug, 2018, 7 Comment

Summary: Perth father Dave Shaw got made redundant in March.....

There are about 40,000 unemployed West Australian men looking for full-time jobs and it's taking them a median 17 weeks, or more than four months, to find it, the latest figures show.

So Dave Shaw is not alone; but he certainly feels it.


An engineer in his 50s with a stellar employment history, he is also a victim of WA’s tanking building industry, which impacted the manufacturer he worked for.

His wife Ann Shaw, a health education professional, is in the modern jargon “underemployed” – looking for secure full-time work but only able to get casual shifts at a registered training organisation, bringing in a small wage as their job applications meet echoing silence, the redundancy payout dries up and the day they join the Centrelink queue speeds to meet them.

Mr Shaw qualified in engineering, with honours in Mining, in 1986 in the UK.

He worked 17 years – from 1987-2004 – with Burton’s Foods as production/engineering manager before he and Ann, who is Australian, moved back to Australia to raise a family in a sunnier climate.

From 2004-2008 he worked at Peter’s Ice Cream as production manager, getting out just before the business closed its Perth factory, axing 140 jobs and moving operations to the eastern states.

From 2008-2014 he worked at Solahart, as engineering manager, getting out just before the business closed its Perth factory, axing 100 jobs and moving operations to the eastern states.

From 2014-2018 he worked at Jason Windows, WA’s biggest window manufacturer, as engineering manager.


Within two years of being hired, he’d delivered the company an annual saving totalling more than his annual salary.

“I put everything into my work. I’m fully committed once I take on a job and I give it as much as possibly can,” he said.

But this was not enough to save him in the WA’s building industry’s most dramatic slump in decades; Bankwest chief economist Alan Langford last month said the downturn in home building was the biggest peak-to-trough fall in the history of Bankwest’s records, with no guarantee the trough had bottomed out.

Major firms including Cooper & Oxley and BCL have gone under and associated businesses have suffered. In March Mr Shaw was told his job had been made redundant.

He phoned his wife and told her instantly. “I was absolutely gutted. I was shaking,” he said.

“She was angry. Not with me, but she knew what I’d put into it. It wasn’t as though I was going to work and marking time and collecting money. I was making the business more cost effective.”

Mr Shaw applied for three jobs even on his way home, before he had even walked in the front door as an unemployed man.

In the “shell-shocked” week that followed he wrote, rewrote and re-rewrote his resume and sent it out repeatedly. He visited the two jobseeker agencies the HR team had sent him to and then sought out two more.

Over the months since March he has applied for more than 160 jobs (this equals 13-plus a week), crafting applications and cover letters for positions in project engineering, manufacturing, prediction management, process engineering, operations management, maintenance supervising, reliability engineering, continuous improvement management and robotics engineering.

He has searched for lower-qualifications jobs in the same fields, reducing the salary bracket by $40,000, which also reduces search results to zero.

He has applied across Australia. His daughters are 13 and 15, so he feels he cannot disrupt their schooling and move the family, but is willing to become a FIFO father if necessary. And he has had more “bites” from the east coast than from the west, even as an out-of-state applicant.

He has tried mining but mining companies do not want someone with 30 years’ manufacturing experience, if their silence is anything to go by.

He has tried unskilled jobs such as warehouse picking, and also labour hire companies, but unsurprisingly they don’t seem keen on an extremely overqualified engineer.

The vast majority of his applications were greeted not with form-letter rejections, but with no response at all.

He got to interview stage for four positions, and in three he made it to the second round.

That’s seven times in three months Mr Shaw has put on his best clothes, walked out the house feeling sick with nerves and hope, and gone to tell a stranger his three decades’ continuous experience is worth something.

Each time he has been politely told “another candidate was more suited to the position”.

“I am perfectly suited to these positions,” he said. “I could do these jobs with my eyes shut. And someone else gets it. I’m used to looking after a factory with 200-300 people in it and a huge amount of equipment. I’m not even getting the job where I’d be looking after 14 people. I feel I come off second best because I’m the oldest candidate.

“It’s absolutely soul destroying. What do I need to do? How much more do I need to know? I don’t think anybody really understands the lack of opportunity for people not in the mining industry in this state. I just don’t think anybody has any real idea. And if it wasn’t picking up right now this state would be in a real mess.

“There is nothing in manufacturing. It’s just disappeared. So many companies have closed down and those jobs will never return because the cost of staff to restart that business is prohibitive. So we import from the eastern states; and we have given them all our jobs.”

His wife has also made it to the second round of interviews twice for jobs she is well qualified for and has also been told the other candidates were “more suited”.

Centrelink's $10,000 incentive for employers to take on over-50s only applies to job seekers who have been unemployed for over 12 months.

They are living on savings and cannot move their mortgage to interest-only as no bank would take on such a risk. There is still a fortnight’s waiting period to go on Centrelink’s Newstart unemployment allowance.

While renters can receive Newstart plus rent assistance there is no mortgage assistance and Newstart is dramatically lower than the age pension.

“The money we will get will barely pay the mortgage let alone feed the family,” Mr Shaw said.

“We’ve been paying for this house 14 years so it’s not even a big mortgage. It’s less than any rental around here. But once we are on Centrelink we will have to sell.”

Mr Shaw said he tried not to think about his own self-image, and how suddenly his situation had changed at such an unexpected time of life.

“I get distraught when I start thinking that way,” he said.

“Just to put things into context, there have been a couple of things go wrong around the house in the past couple of days, and just to have something go wrong and to be able to go and get the tools out, go and fix them – just to have achieved something that day is an immense relief.

“I never thought things would be like this. Even in my darkest thoughts about losing a job I never thought it would take so long just to get me started. I can’t even find a position just to get a restart going.

“Everybody’s trying to be positive. But this ... it’s hard to live with.”


Emma Young watoday.com.au 18/7/2018

  • MyPassion

    14 Aug, 2018

    (in response to anonymous on 11 Aug 2018) Mate you covered off on a lot of valid points including dumbing down the CV. Been in exactly same position and happy on casual shut down circuit but havnt always fitted in with some of the young blokes.

  • MyPassion

    Ray Pavri
    13 Aug, 2018

    ok so I have contacted Dave Shaw through Linkedin. When I went to Linkedin I found out that he recently got started with relevant work in August 2018 (so recently). My contact with him was to see how I can help others in a similar situation - perhaps through his story sharing and with what I do already through Job Transition Strategy. I have also contacted Emma Young the journalist from WA Today (a Fairfax publication) where this article was published first, to see if she through Fairfax, and me through the work I do through Job Transition Strategy (www.jobtransitionstrategy.com) having already spoken several times through Engineers Australia on this topic (see https://www.engineersaustralia.org.au/Event/are-you-engineer-and-want-recession-proof-yourself) can help others. If anyone else wants to contribute (ideas, thoughts and crowd funding of an event to help others) to this projects please contact me at raypavri@jobtransitionstrategy.com .

  • MyPassion

    11 Aug, 2018

    How does one get in touch with Dave ? I would like to have a coffee with him if he is interested. I guess most who have commented can relate to his experience. I was lucky enough to get a job on a mine site in a skilled electrical position after a period of unemployment. I am now 57 and the sense of relief is still something I am reminded of most days. Without wanting to sound too negative, but some of my observations on this subject are that; Age discrimination is a fact of life despite it being legislated against. That is not going to change, same as all the other discriminations that apply in society. To some extent it is a valid discrimination ( based on what I have observed here on site),, as older "new" employees do bring with them a level of self entitlement and fixed mindedness (baggage) that quite often does not fit in with a workforce that is made up of mainly younger persons. And employing over qualified and experienced persons,, in lesser roles ( eg Supervisor going back on the tools but reporting to a younger Supervisor) also has its problems. And there is the other argument that young graduates are also unemployed and maybe they should be given a go at a job over a person who has been in the workforce for many years ? But the reality is that there are many more people looking for jobs than there are jobs available and this is not going to change going forward. The prognosis for the future is that many jobs that are now seen as "safe" and well paying will be replaceable by AI, computers, or robots in the future. The list includes, accountants, lawyers, medical specialists, etc. Some suggestions that may (or may not ) help would be to "dumb down" the CV if you are applying for lesser jobs that what you are qualified for. If you manage to secure that job, then you will have the opportunity to prove yourself and move into a better role that more reflects your experience once you are on board. Reinvent yourself ( I know easier said than done ) but if you are able to start with a blank sheet of paper and list all the ideas that could turn into opportunities then narrow them down to once that may be able to be implemented. Tap your network of friends and industry colleagues ( I am sure you have already done this). Interesting story I was told at new job induction course; The question was asked of these different workers what they thought their industry work culture was recognised for. Germans answered 'Precision engineering'. Americans answered "We get shit done". Japanese answered " Continuous improvement,, seeking perfection". Aussies answered "Relationships". And I believe this to be true, many jobs won here are by word of mouth, by a mate telling his employer of his mate who is looking for a job. Even if it gets you that interview where you get the chance to be considered for a role. The current recruitment machine does not work ( personal experience). CV are being assesses by computers looking for key words, and probably excluding candidates using date ranges ( ie,, birthday). If I can also add,, try and stay positive and keep a positive disposition ( there is always someone who is worse off than you right ?) including maintaining a positive body language. And hopefully at least you still have to support of your family,, wife and kids to keep you going ( its bad enough having your confidence shattered by the experience of unemployment, but its worse when you r self esteem is also decimated if your partner leaves in in the process). But in the end you have to keep soldering on,, and something will turn in the end.

  • MyPassion

    08 Aug, 2018

    I have been out of work for almost 18 months now. At 57 the chances of me gaining employment are getting pretty slim. I have applied for over 100 jobs and the outcome has been the same - someone better suited, they can't say I am too old. I can't even get a job as a TA because they say I am over qualified. Another 7 years until I can access my superannuation, so am relying on my wife's income...........

  • MyPassion

    Paul Comley
    07 Aug, 2018

    Chin up mate it took me 5 months to get a job after a redundancy, as a shit kicker on really bad wages, but i soon got a promotion and now i have got a better job . make sure you talk to the bank about hard ship and all your creditors. Let everyone know that you owe money to that times are tough. That will give you some breathing space. I`m 58 years old and slowly getting back. Don't let the barstards get you down.

  • MyPassion

    07 Aug, 2018

    Mate I am and have lived the same situation after redundancy 28 years manufacturing. I done some tickets and joined the shut down circuit. Money is good and I have had to join two agencies for continuity of work as I am a TA and not a trady. I work with a great bunch and no regrets other than spending time away from my family.

  • MyPassion

    07 Aug, 2018

    It is pure age discrimination my friend. The new bosses are younger with less experience who feel insecure by your presence plus they cannot afford to pay you for your experience.

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