Damian Oliver is an Associate of the UTS Business School. He is an applied researcher who is interested in the world of work, especially how it intersects with education and training. He is currently the Head of Strategic Policy for TAFE NSW, the leading provider of public vocational education and training in Australia.
He maintains an active research profile, principally through involvement with an Australian Research Council Discovery Project examining the experience of workers in the gig economy.
In 2016 he completed a study for the Commonwealth Department of Employment examining unpaid work experience. Other recent projects include examining apprenticeships for the European Commission and the future of vocational education and training for the NSW Department of Industry.
Prior to joining UTS, he was Leading Research Analyst and Acting Director at the Workplace Research Centre, University of Sydney. His research career also includes time spent at Griffith University, the University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany), and three years at the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, Adelaide.
Member, Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand (AIRAANZ)
Member, Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association (AVETRA)
Member, Industrial Relations Society of New South Wales
Can supervise: YES
Damian is an applied researcher who is interested in the world of work, especially how it intersects with education and training.He has qualifications in organisational communication, industrial relations and economics. His particular areas of expertise are:
- the apprenticeship and traineeship models of skills development (in Australia and overseas),
- the role of formal qualifications in the labour market
- the intersection of workforce development strategies and industrial relations issues,
- the youth labour market and
- the transition from education to employment.
He has published in
- British Journal of Industrial Relations
- Industrial Relations
- Journal of Vocational Education and Training
- Journal of Industrial Relations
- Australian Journal of Labour Economics
- Economic and Labour Relations Review
- Labour and Industry
Damian is not currently involved in teaching at UTS.
Oliver, D & Walpole, K 2018, 'Subject to qualification: Weakening links between job roles and qualifications in Australian manufacturing enterprise agreements', Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 60, no. 4, pp. 517-537.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2018, Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association (ALERA), SAGE Publications Ltd, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC. This article examines job classifications in enterprise agreements from the Australian manufacturing industry, focusing on the recognition of formal qualifications. It follows earlier research that found the strength and frequency of references to qualifications vary considerably between modern awards, with manufacturing industry awards having some of the strongest connections. A representative sample of 350 agreements (13.5% of the total) made under the Fair Work Act between 2010 and 2013 was analysed. Analysis revealed that linkages between formal qualifications and job classification structures are less common in enterprise agreements than in relevant modern awards. However, the overall effects of enterprise bargaining on recognition of employees' qualifications are complex. We find that, one way or another, the award classification structure continues to apply in 47.1% of enterprise agreements. Through logistic regression, we explore factors influencing the use of formal qualifications as part of job classifications, with a particular focus on whether this extends beyond the licensing requirements of tradespeople (Certificate III). Our finding that three factors – workplace size, award coverage and union coverage – significantly affect enterprise bargaining outcomes is likely to be generalisable beyond this study's focus on job classifications to many other important terms in enterprise agreements.
Oliver, D & Walpole, K 2017, 'How are links between a National Qualifications Framework, job roles and pay mediated by industrial relations institutions in manufacturing?', Journal of Vocational Education and Training, vol. 69, no. 4, pp. 576-595.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2017 The Vocational Aspect of Education Ltd. National Qualifications Frameworks (NQFs) are intended to promote stronger linkages between education institutions and the labour market. This paper examines how industrial relations institutions mediate the relationship between formal qualifications, job classifications and pay outcomes in Australian manufacturing. In Australia a tribunal sets job classifications and pay grades through industry-based awards; collective agreements that displace the award can be negotiated, primarily on an enterprise by enterprise basis. In a representative sample of 100 collective agreements in the manufacturing industry, we find linkages in collective agreements are less common, weaker and refer to a narrower range of qualifications than the comparable awards. In fact, a third of enterprise-level collective agreements contain no reference at all to an NQF qualification. These findings suggest that diffusion of NQFs in the labour market cannot be taken for granted and challenge prescriptions that qualifications should be defined around narrow descriptions of competence to reflect employer preferences.
Buchanan, J & Oliver, D 2016, ''Fair Work' and the Modernization of Australian Labour Standards: A Case of Institutional Plasticity Entrenching Deepening Wage Inequality', British Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 54, no. 4, pp. 790-814.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/London School of Economics. Australia was long recognized for its relatively compressed wage structure. From the 1940s to the 1970s this was associated with a comprehensive regime of 'award-based' minimum wages. Since the 1980s, this has been subjected to comprehensive 'modernization'. After three decades of reform and in the most supportive economic environment in the OECD, Australian wage inequality has deepened. Although multiple political-economic forces have been at play, the evolution of Australia's labour standards regime is an example of 'institutional plasticity' whereby the purpose and operations of wage-setting institutions not only evolves but can actually be inverted over time.
Oliver, D 2016, 'Wage determination in Australia: The impact of qualifications, awards and enterprise agreements', Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 58, no. 1, pp. 69-92.View/Download from: Publisher's site
© 2015, Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association (ALERA), SAGE Publications Ltd, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC. A prevailing assumption in labour market policy is that workers have a powerful incentive to acquire new skills and qualifications, as this should lead to higher wages. However, the process of rewarding qualifications with higher wages is not automatic, determined solely by market principles, or consistent across all qualification types and fields. Whereas human capital theory struggles to explain why greater human capital (in the form of higher qualifications) may not always lead to higher wages, institutional approaches can better accommodate a more nuanced relationship between education and training institutions, industrial relations institutions and wage outcomes. This article examines the role that awards and enterprise agreements play in the recognition of workers' qualifications and in so doing demonstrates the ongoing relevance of industrial relations to skills policy. Using data from the longitudinal Australia at Work survey, this article reveals that workers with vocational and university qualifications who were employed on awards report higher wages over and above the qualification premium received by workers on other wage-setting arrangements. This finding did not extend to workers on enterprise (collective) agreements. The article confirms the positive role of awards in promoting skill acquisition, especially among the low-paid, award-reliant workforce.
Oliver, D & Walpole, K 2015, 'Missing links: connections between qualifications and job roles in awards', Labour & Industry: a journal of the social and economic relations of work, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 100-117.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Oliver, D 2014, 'Lower-level Qualifications as a Stepping Stone for Young People', Australian Journal of Labour Economics: a journal of labour economics and labour relations, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 15-33.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
This article investigates whether lower-level qualifications (certificate I and II qualifications) serve as a 'stepping stone' to further study or into the labour market. Using data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY), the research matches certificate I and II graduates to other young people who share similar characteristics but who have neither completed, nor are undertaking, study or training at a higher level. Two years after completing a certificate I or II qualification, young males are more likely to have undertaken an apprenticeship or traineeship, when compared with other individuals with similar background characteristics. After two years, young female certificate I and II graduates are more likely to be employed and to have undertaken an apprenticeship or traineeship when compared with other similar females. At age 26, the benefits of completing a certificate I or II qualification are still apparent for males but at the same age, females in the control group have caught up to their counterparts who are certificate I and II graduates.
Buchanan, J, Oliver, D & Briggs, C 2014, 'Solidarity reconstructed: The impact of the Accord on relations within the Australian union movement', Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 56, no. 2, pp. 288-307.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Unions' strength and identity is determined primarily by the extent to which they can nurture effective solidarity amongst wage earners in general and between networks of unions in particular. The experience of inter-union coordination throughout the Accord years has strengthened political solidarity across the movement (demonstrated most recently in the 2007 Your Rights at Work campaign). The movement's industrial solidarity has been in secular decline since the peak union leadership enthusiastically embraced enterprise bargaining in the final phase of the Accord in the early 1990s. The key challenge for unions today is to broaden the ambit of political solidarity and to revitalise industrial solidarity in an era of increasing workforce diversity and working life transformation. © Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association (ALERA), SAGE Publications Ltd, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC.
Low rates of award pay for apprentices have been seen as discouraging young people from starting an apprenticeship as well as contributing to low completion rates. This criticism, however, assumes that few apprentices receive above-award payments. Analysis of data from the 2009 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey of Education and Training finds that over-award payments for apprentices are common, especially in the electro-technology automotive, and engineering trades. Most trainees also receive over-award payments, particularly existing workers, older trainees, and male trainees. In most cases, the relevant award wage for apprentices and trainees is below the national minimum wage. More importantly, the method for determining the apprentice award wage in most cases does not take into account age or level of schooling, even though apprentices are increasingly older and are more likely to have completed Year 12. This has led to a decline in the apprentice award wage, relative to the applicable award wage in alternative employment.
Oliver, D 2011, 'University Student Employment and Expectations of the Graduate Labour Market', JOURNAL OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, vol. 53, no. 1, pp. 123-131.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Complexity is a feature common to all vocational education and training (VET) governance arrangements, due to the wide range of students VET systems caters for, and the number of stakeholders involved in both decision making and funding and financing. In this article, Pierre and Peter's framework of governance is used to examine complexity in VET governance models. Criticism has been made of complex decision-making processes in VET governance models, whether stemming from co-determination with social partners or shared responsibilities in federations between national and sub-national governments, with the contention being that such complex processes reduce system adaptability. This article argues that the focus on decision-making processes is misguided and the effects of other complex system processes should be considered. First, debate needs to be broadened to take into account how governance frameworks emerge from historical and political differences, such as the impact of federal structures of government. Adaptability depends on more than decision-making processes. Second, international comparisons suggest that complex policy instruments, whether the result of convoluted decision-making or not, may demonstrate greater adaptability in the system but also threaten system coherence. Finally, complex processes for allocating resources and generating feedback seem to increase system accountability, although unintended consequences for other system outcomes may yet emerge.
Oliver, D 2010, 'Complexity in VET Governance', Research in Comparative and International Education, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 261-273.
OLIVER, DAMIAN 2009, 'UNIVERSITY STUDENT EMPLOYMENT AND EXPERIENCES OF UNION MEMBERSHIP', Labour & Industry: a journal of the social and economic relations of work, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 137-156.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Nettle, N, Oliver, D, Brightling, P, Buchanan, J & Williamson, J 2008, '"Workforce Planning' to 'Collective Action': Developments in the Australian dairy farm sector'', Employment Relations Record, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 17-33.
Australian unions will remember 2007 as the year that their 'Your Rights at Work' campaign contributed to the defeat of the Coalition Government. Industrial relations dominated the election campaign and remained at the centre of public policy and media debates throughout the year. Employers used the Howard government's Work Choices legislation to refuse to bargain with unions and to prevent lawful industrial action. Union officials and members were prosecuted for unlawful industrial action. In response, unions conducted a highly resourced and professional campaign aimed at changing the government and repealing Work Choices. However, the Australian Labor Party under new leader Kevin Rudd announced it would keep certain contentious aspects of Work Choices. Notwithstanding the defeat of the Coalition, barriers remain to unions' future growth and strength. © Industrial Relations Society of Australia.
Bailey, J, Oliver, D & Townsend, K 2007, 'Transition to practitioner: Redesigning a third year course for undergraduate business students', Journal of Management and Organization, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 65-80.View/Download from: Publisher's site
This paper reports the outcomes from a teaching and learning research project at an Australian University centred on improving a third year course in industrial relations. The paper addresses the cognitive and affective outcomes of the course. Cognitively, students developed a greater understanding of the processes of industrial relations and their interconnectedness; however, research and academic skills were identified as in need of further improvement. Affectively, students responded to the challenges of the course, increasing their confidence and self-efficacy and being better prepared for the transition from student to practitioner. While the course in question was a final year 'capstone' course, the findings are applicable to all who are interested in designing, or redesigning, any business course that attempts to integrate theory and practice. © eContent Management Pty Ltd.
Bailey, J, Oliver, D & Townsend, K 2007, 'Re-designing a Capstone Course in an Undergraduate Business Major', Journal of Management and Organization, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 65-80.
McDonald, P, Bailey, J, Oliver, D & Pini, B 2007, 'Compounding vulnerability? Young workers; employment concerns and the anticipated impact of the WorkChoices Act', Australian Bulletin of Labour, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 60-88.
Oliver, D 2006, 'An expectation of future success: The work attitudes of Generation Y', Labour and Industry: a journal of the social and economic relations of work, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 61-84.
Buchanan, J & Oliver, D 2014, ''Choice' and 'fairness': the hollow core in industrial relations policy' in Miller, C & Orchard, L (eds), Australian public policy: Progressive ideas in the neoliberal ascendency, Policy Press, UK, pp. 97-114.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Over the last 20 years, few policy areas in Australia have been
contested as fiercely as industrial relations (IR). In 1993, the Keating
Labor Government implemented the Industrial Relations Reform
Act, which severed a 100-year Australian tradition of centralised wage
fixing and state involvement through the conciliation and arbitration of
industrial disputes. In its place was a new decentralised and deregulated
regime, centred on enterprise bargaining.
Rather than establishing a new consensus, the effect of the Industrial
Relations Reform Act has been to shift the parameter of IR policy
further to the right. The Howard Coalition Government argued that
the changes were not severe enough, and with its 1996 (Workplace
Relations Act) and 2006 (Work Choices) interventions continued to
dismantle what remained of a unique liberal collectivist experiment
in IR. Labor's 2007 response, the Fair Work Act, remains true to
the spirit of Keating's 1993 Act and keeps in place many of the
reforms adopted by the Howard Government, intended to erode the
collective institutions of IR policy. Consequently, the policy debate
in IR has become one relating to a choice between an unregulated
marketplace, where employers are free to set the terms, and a system
where collective bargaining at the enterprise level is propped up by a
residualist safety net. Neither option has the capacity to address rising
insecurity in the labour market or the production and reproduction of
skills, two of the biggest issues (in terms of economic and social costs)
confronting the contemporary Australian labour market.
Oliver, D 2013, 'Student Attitudes toward Power and Employment Relations' in Hossfeld, H & Ortleib, R (eds), Macht und Employment Relations (Power and Employment Relations), Rainer Hampp Verlag, pp. 75-80.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Oliver, D 2011, 'University student employment in Germany and Australia and its impact on attitude toward union membership' in Bailey, J, McDonald, P, Price, R & Pini, B (eds), Young People and Work, Ashgate Publishing Limited, Farnham, Surrey, pp. 243-262.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
This edited book brings together empirical studies of young people in paid employment from a variety of disciplinary perspectives and in different national settings.
Price, R, Bailey, J & Oliver, D 2009, 'The Privileged Generation?' Managing Young Workers' in Strachan, G, French, E & Burgess, J (eds), Managing Diversity in Australia Theory and Practice, McGraw-Hill, Sydney, pp. 239-254.
This is an important new title based on original research by leading scholars in the field.
Oliver, D & Walpole, K 2015, 'Links between job roles, qualifications and pay in 100 manufacturing agreements', 29th Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand, Auckland.
Oliver, D & Walpole, K 2014, 'Missing links: Connections between skills, qualifications and pay in modern awards', 23rd National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference 'No Frills': refereed papers, National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference (No Frills), National Centre for Vocational Education Research, Melbourne, pp. 67-72.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
An assumed incentive for an individual to complete a VET qualification is the chance to earn higher
pay. This paper examines the relationship between AQF qualifications, job roles and pay rates in
Australia's 122 modern awards. Modern awards directly determine the pay and employment conditions
of around one in five Australian workers (many of them in VET-relevant occupations) and indirectly
influence many more, by setting the standard for enterprise agreements.
Each classification in each modern award was analysed and allocated to one of six categories
describing the relationship between an AQF qualification and the pay rate, ranging from no mention
of an AQF qualification to exclusive (only someone with that AQF qualification can be employed in
that classification). Preliminary data suggest:
35 out of 122 modern awards contain no reference to AQF qualifications.
By contrast, 32 out of 122 modern awards contain at least one classification that guarantees an
employee with a particular qualification a higher pay rate.
The paper details how these patterns linking qualifications to classifications vary by industry. While
awards in traditional blue collar areas such as manufacturing include extensive connections between
AQF qualifications and job classifications, many modern awards in fast-growing service industries
contain few, or no, connections
Oliver, D 2014, 'Relationships between qualifications and remuneration: the mediating impact of employment instruments'.
Oliver, D & Walpole, K 2014, 'Missing links: Connections between skills, qualifications and pay in modern awards', International Conference on Skills for the Future, Toulouse.
Oliver, D & Buchanan, J 2014, 'Australia's Fair Work Reforms: Refining, not redefining, a new working order', International Fairness at Work Conference, Manchester.
Oliver, D 2010, 'What could modern awards mean for skill formation?', Work in Progress: Crises, Choices and Continuity – Proceedings of the 24th Conference of the Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand, 24th Conference of the Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand, University of Western Sydney, Sydney.
Oliver, D 2010, 'The role of social partners in vocational education and training: A comparison between Australia and Germany', Work in Progress: Crises, Choices and Continuity - Proceedings of the 24th Conference of the Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand, 24th Conference of the Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand, University of Western Sydney, Sydney.
Oliver, D 2009, 'Beschäftigungserwartungen von deutschen und australischen Studierenden (What German and Australian university students expect from graduate employment)', Colloqium of Chairs of Human Resource Management, Leuphana University, Lueneberg.
Oliver, D 2007, 'Union Membership among Young Graduate Workers', Proceedings of the 21st Conference of the Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand, 21st Conference of the Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand, University of Auckland, Auckland.
Allan, C, Bamber, G & Oliver, D 2006, 'Student Experiences at Work and Attitudes to Unionism: A Study of Retailing and Fast Food', 21st Century Work: High Road or Low Road? Proceedings of the 20th Conference of the Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand, 20th Conference of the Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand, University of South Australia, Adelaide.
Oliver, D 2005, 'New job new start? Union attitudes and student workers', Reworking Work. Proceedings of the 19th Conference of the Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand, 19th Conference of the Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand, University of Sydney School of Business, Sydney.
Oliver, D 2004, 'University students' part-time work experiences and their attitudes toward full-time work', Regionalism and globalisation: The challenge for employment relations: Proceedings of the 12th annual IERA conference, 12th annual IERA conference, International Employment Relations Association, Yeppoon, Australia.
Oliver, D 2004, 'Beyond the Yellow Brick Road: Anticipating Risk in Graduate Employment'.
Oliver, D 2004, 'The role of part-time jobs in the transition from education to full-time work', International Working Party on Labour Market Segmentation, Brisbane.
Oliver, D, Freeman, B & Young, C Department of Education 2014, Employer Satisfaction Survey: Pilot report, Canberra.
Oliver, D National Centre for Vocational Education Research 2013, The strategic impact of industrial relations among tertiary education providers', Structures in tertiary education and training: a kaleidoscope or merely fragments? Research readings, pp. 132-142, Adelaide.
Oliver, D & Verma, G Australian Flexible Learning Framework 2013, E-learning's contribution to workforce development, Brisbane.
Karmel, T, Lu, T & Oliver, D National Centre for Vocational Education Research 2013, Starting out in low-skill jobs, Adelaide.
Lower-level qualifications (certificate I and II programs) provide little or no immediate return to the
individual in terms of increased wages. However, lower-level qualifications are intended to prepare
students who would otherwise not be capable of enrolling in and completing a higher-level
qualification or making a successful transition into the workplace, because of their ability, social
circumstances, or previous educational experiences. The aim of this report is to test whether lowerlevel
qualifications serve a broader purpose by functioning as a 'stepping stone' to further study or
into the labour market.
The critical part of the methodology is the selection of the comparison group. Using data from the
Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY), the research matches certificate I and II graduates to
other young people who share similar characteristics but who have neither completed nor are
undertaking study or training at a higher level. The report compares their further study, training,
employment and overall wellbeing outcomes two years after graduation and at age 26. The findings
do not relate to certificate I or II qualifications completed as part of an apprenticeship or traineeship.
Oliver, D National Centre for Vocational Education Research 2012, Award structures, The apprenticeship and traineeship system's relationships with the regulatory environment, Adelaide.
Coelli, M & Oliver, D National Centre for Vocational Education Research 2012, Youth transitions: what the research tells us, Adelaide.
Oliver, D National Centre for Vocational Education Research 2011, Skill shortages in the trades during economic downturns, Adelaide.
Karmel, T & Oliver, D National Centre for Vocational Education Research 2011, Pre-apprenticeships and their impact on apprenticeship completion and satisfaction, Adelaide.
Oliver, D & Karmel, T National Centre for Vocational Education Research 2011, Pre-vocational programs and their impact on traineeship completion and satisfaction, Adelaide.
Karmel, T & Oliver, D National Centre for Vocational Education Research 2011, Effect of the downturn on apprentices and trainees, Adelaide.
Oliver, D Workplace Research Centre, University of Sydney 2008, The link between industrial arrangements and skill reform: final report, Sydney.
Evesson, J, Buchanan, J, Bamberry, L, Frino, B & Oliver, D Workplace Research Centre, University of Sydney 2007, Lowering the Standards: From Awards to Work Choices in Retail and Hospitality Collective Agreements, Sydney.
Baird, M, Cooper, R & Oliver, D Women and Work Research Group, University of Sydney Business School 2007, Down and Out in New South Wales: The Impact of Work Choices on the Work and Lives of Women in Low Paid Employment, Sydney.
Damian has conducted research and consultancy projects with a wide range of industry, government and non-government organisations:
- NSW Department of Industry (2016-2018, VET Reform Research Collaboration)
- Australian Department of Employment (2016, Survey of Unpaid Work Experience)
- Australian Department of Education (2013-14, Employer Satisfaction Survey)
- NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet (2014, the Workforce Participation Challenge in NSW)
- TAFE NSW & NSWTF (2013-15, Evaluation of trial job roles)
- Community Services & Health Industry Skills Council (2012-2015, Environmental Scan)
- Council of Australian Governments (2012, Best Practice Regional Workforce Planning and Development)
- Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (2013, Developing the Authorised Officer Workforce)
- Australian Education Union (2015, Understanding for-profit VET providers)