Hertie School alumna opening Australia’s labour market to older workers.
Two years after graduating from the Hertie School, Sarah Worthing is back in Germany and ready to take the next step in her career with the valuable skills and experience she has acquired back home in Australia, where she developed government policies to help disadvantaged people participate in the labour market.
In 2017, she moved from Berlin to Canberra as a policy officer at the Australian Department of Jobs and Small Business. Her role focussed on helping mature age workers, veterans, people with disabilities and those with mental health issues to enter or stay in the workforce. After six months, she was promoted to senior policy officer.
One of Sarah’s major projects was to help design a package of policies to activate workers aged over 50. This entailed creating a collaborative partnership with employers to discuss labour-market barriers for mature workers, to combat age discrimination and to create a framework for more flexible employment.
“Older workers have a lot of experience they can bring into the workforce, but they may need more flexible work arrangements because they are balancing care responsibilities or health issues,” Sarah says. “Some employers are used to more traditional work models, and so we were looking at the legal requirements and how to equip employers to adopt more flexible models.”
It was, Sarah says, “a wonderful career path - I could have stayed there and gone far.” But at 29, she didn’t feel ready to be locked into a life as a civil servant in Canberra. “I know that I can always go back to it,” she says. “I just need a few more years to travel around.”
She is moving to Hamburg to be with her German partner and her first priority is an intensive language course. She is still weighing her options beyond that, and is particularly attracted to the idea of working in the non-profit sector for a while. Sarah is especially interested in the gender dynamics of the labour market. “Obviously I can apply what I learned at the Hertie School to the public sector, but I am looking at how I can apply it in other sectors too,” she says. “At this stage in my life I am very driven to look at how I can make a meaningful difference in the non-profit world.”
The data analysis and economics courses at the Hertie School have proven particularly useful in her career so far, she says. “I did the quantitative analysis track at Hertie,” she says. “Even though I only did some data analysis in my particular role in Australia, I was able to go to data analysts and communicate with them in their language. I could challenge their findings and ask them to really tease out the evidence that I needed to put in the policy proposals.”
She says her Hertie School training left a range of career options open at home. “I was working on the public sector side, but I could have easily gone over to work with politicians, or as a policy officer for one of the senators,” she says. “That’s an interesting and fast-paced side of things. Consulting would also have been an option.”
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