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REWORK: Helping stood-down workers stand up

06:00am May 06 2020

Adam Jacobs, cofounder of new labour exchange redeploying stood-down workers into temporary jobs. (Supplied) 

While younger generations of workers in particular reel from the COVID-19 crisis, Adam Jacobs retains hope that not all is lost for today’s youth.

“It's a moment where young talent, people who are digital natives and have grown up with these kind of skill sets and perspectives in the digital world can add tremendous value to an organisation's ability to shape-shift and adapt to a new and more digital world,” says Jacobs, the co-founder of employment start-up Hatch, in a podcast with Westpac Wire.

“So that's our hope of how we might be able to find a silver lining for the next generation.”

Listen to our interview with Hatch co-founder Adam Jacobs:  

Early on in the crisis, Hatch – a digital platform created in 2017 to connect young people like students with paid work placements – launched a new digital labour exchange, Hatch Exchange, designed to help rapidly redeploy stood-down workers into temporary jobs.

Jacobs says the idea came after some of Hatch’s partner employers – like Qantas and Merivale – needed to stand down large proportions of their workforce, while others – like Woolworths and Services Australia – were rapidly seeking to hire to handle new demand as a result of the pandemic. In the four weeks since launch, around 130 employers, with more than 150,000 impacted staff, had signed up to the exchange, representing sectors worst affected by restrictions to slow the virus, including hospitality, retail, aviation, tourism, the arts and sports.

More than 10,000 of those impacted staff – including those from Qantas, Virgin, Flight Centre, Crown Resorts, Merivale and Country Road Group – have registered for redeployment opportunities. Meanwhile, around 500 have so far been placed into roles where COVID-related activity has surged, such as call centre positions, operations roles, digital marketing, software engineering, project management and cybersecurity.

“Within seven days, we took our existing technology and repurposed it to be able to match and redeploy stood-down workers into new jobs that were a good fit for their underlying transferable abilities,” says Jacobs, who also co-founded online fashion retailer, The Iconic.

The initiative comes as Federal Treasury predicts Australia’s jobless rate will reach as high as 10 per cent in June – the highest since the 1990s – and the nation stares into its deepest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Young workers have been particularly hard hit, Westpac economic data showing 42 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds lost their job during March, according to Westpac senior economist Matt Hassan. As in previous recessions, this group is likely to be disproportionately affected by the slowdown and carry “career scars” for decades.

But Jacobs, who co-founded Hatch – named a Westpac Business of Tomorrow – with Chaz Heitner, believes what sets this recession apart is the technological transformation of the past two decades.

And Hatch’s labour exchange itself is one of several proof points of this massive shift.

Its business-to-business model allows employers to sign up to its platform on both the supply and demand sides of the market. Hatch then manages all employment administration tasks, including background checks, payroll, and onboarding, allowing for a smooth return for employees when their old employers open up again. Staff are matched to hiring companies within 72 hours of their request.

“Our goal is to help redeploy as many as we can, but that's going to be directed by just how many jobs there are out there. So, we're certainly not promising…redeployment, but we are trying to put them in the absolute best position to have access to that opportunity by effectively creating a marketplace,” Jacobs says.

“We're encouraging all organisations who are growing their teams as a result of COVID-19 to use the exchange to access this talent pool. It has some of the top talent in Australia, super well-trained, very motivated, very adaptive.

“We're trying to protect the continuity of those industries and employers and help them rebuild faster by supporting their people to find work in the interim, [which] not only gives them an income, but also importantly gives them a sense of purpose during this time.” 

Emma Foster is a freelance writer. Previously, she led Westpac Wire and was a key contributor until December 2022. Prior to joining Westpac in 2013, she spent almost 20 years in corporate affairs and investor relations, primarily in large financial services and consultancy firms, in Australia, UK and Europe. She is also a photographer and podcaster.

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