A career in aged care: TAFE NSW Student of the Year tells us why

Paulo Pavani, TAFE NSW Student of the Year

In this Q&A, Inside Ageing (IA) spoke with Paulo Pavani (pictured) who was recently awarded TAFE NSW Student of the Year, and is currently studying a Certificate IV in Ageing Support, while working as an Assistant in Nursing at Bupa Seaforth.

Originally from Brazil, 32-year-old Paulo Pavani was spurred on to change careers after witnessing the devastating impact of dementia on his grandmother in her later years.

IA: You made the switch from studying Environment Engineering to Aged Care and in particular a Certificate IV in Ageing Support – why?  


Paulo Pavani: Firstly, it is important to state that I really identify with and fully support the environmental sector, and I put my heart in all the projects I was a part of during the 5 years I worked in the industry. I am proud of my initial professional journey and the companies I worked for and strongly believe nowadays we reinvent ourselves daily. 

The first contact I had with the Aged Care industry happened when during this period I had some family situations involving close relatives facing health changes in their life due to the natural process of ageing. From trying to bring the family together to take care of them to eventually considering a nursing home to allow them to have more comfort, security, and quality of life. Without fully understanding, I was able to observe the impacts these situations can have on everyone´s life. 

I still remember the day I visited my grandmother at a nursing home for the first time and she could not recognize me due to an advanced stage of Dementia combined with other conditions. I did not have any knowledge on that and how this had impacted her life, but somehow this situation changed my life.  

Simultaneously, I was going through a process of analysing my personal and professional life aiming to understand what my goals were and to find a purpose for everything I was doing. The book “Power of Now” (Eckhart Tolle) came into my life through a friend´s recommendation and presented me with ideas, reflections and thoughts about the ways we conduct our lives and actions. 

To summarize, with these different aspects happening at the same time I realised that I needed a change that would allow me to work closely with people and to identify more with the positive impact of my actions. I conducted extensive research on the Aged Care industry and noticed that despite the ageing process being identified as a worldwide challenge and reality, there was a huge GAP between a qualified workforce and the industry´s demand.  

Having identified Australia and a few countries in Europe as references, I chose to come to Australia in 2019 to start my studies with the Certificate III in Individual Support and Certificate IV in Ageing, while initially finding an opportunity to start working as a volunteer in a nursing home. The journey has been a life change experience so far and I have plans to continuously develop myself both through studying (Currently studying Diploma of Community Services at TAFE NSW) and working within the Aged Care and Community Services industry.  

IA: It would seem like a big career move to change sectors completely.  Does this mean you see a long-term career in the aged care sector and what research have you done into the sector to support such as decision? 

Paulo Pavani: Yes, I absolutely intend to pursue a long-term career in the Aged Care sector. I’m currently considering nursing and dementia care as options for the next step of my professional and personal development.  

My research on the Aged Care industry started in Brazil when I found myself in the situation described previously. The first step was understanding the ideas and concepts of the sector initially in Brazil and later globally, trying also to identify the different stages of development in terms of legislation, perspectives, and financial/funding aspects. 

In the second stage, I conducted extensive quantitative and qualitative research on job vacancies and work demands of the Aged Care industry, considering different levels of work, both operational and strategic. This allowed me to identify this industry as a worldwide reality on which workers may choose to continuously develop themselves if chosen. 

The last stage of my research aimed to identify educational institutions that would offer a wide range of course opportunities, especially for someone going through a big career move like me. Having identified that many countries (both in South America and Europe) do not offer many quality options in terms of study, I chose Australia as my destination after narrowing it to three countries. TAFE NSW from the beginning was my first option, combining quality educational service, good reputation both nationally and globally, and a strategic well-balanced combination between practical and theoretical aspects. 

IA: What have you noticed about the Aged Care sector that most interests you from a career standpoint? 

Paulo Pavani: From a career standpoint I noticed the Aged Care sector is going through major changes, including aiming to improve the quality of care for the rapidly growing population of older people. Having a purpose, worldwide options in terms of work relocation, and opportunities to reach not only practical but also strategic and management positions were the factors that made me choose Aged Care as my present and future professional career. 

IA: Amongst your TAFE cohort are you mostly aligned in how you view a career in the sector or are others looking at the sector differently? eg: are others looking for short/medium/long term careers. 

Paulo Pavani: From my recent experiences, I understand that in the Aged Care industry there is a mix of professionals from different backgrounds, aiming for different life goals. Either becoming a nurse, paying for IT university studies, having lost their previous job due to our current pandemic situation, or choosing to be there because they identify with the industry and want to pursue further stages in the sector – these were all realities that I came through during the last 2 years. 

I believe like any other industry, it is possible to identify workers with short/medium/long term careers commitments, being the most important aspect of it is the quality of the service and your compliance levels with legislation and ethics while you conduct any action within the industry. We should not expect that everyone working in the industry aims to remain for a long-term commitment, but we must expect that everyone delivers a high-quality service for the client, respecting policies/procedures, legislation, and ethical aspects. 

Additionally, acknowledging that the Aged Care industry is rapidly changing and adapting itself to new service delivery models we should also evaluate the way people see this industry within the broad community. From advertisements on TV and social media to educational events and campaigns in primary and high schools, there is a strategic opportunity to better inform the population on the importance of this sector – not only to maximise awareness but to motivate those with passion for the cause to build their careers in this area. 

IA: What sectors have others in your cohort come from? 

I have met co-workers coming from the financial, IT, educational and engineering sectors, usually with experience from a different country. 

IA: Coming from studying Environmental  Engineering what are the big differences between cohorts? 

Paulo Pavani: In my point of view the biggest difference is dealing directly with human beings. In environmental engineering, there are strategic and theoretical aspects that set the tone of most of our actions while dealing at a strategic level like I was doing (management consultancy).  

Transitioning to Aged Care I found myself with a great challenge of balancing my management and theoretical skills with social and behavioural ones that are demanded daily when working with clients in the Aged Care industry.

Additionally, cultural awareness, cultural competency, and cultural safety, both with clients and co-workers is also an essential skill all workers must acquire and develop aiming to achieve higher levels of collaboration, respect, and quality of service. 

IA: How valuable has it been to be working in the sector (Assistant in Nursing) in order to complement your studies? 

Paulo Pavani: It has been essential to my professional and personal development and something I pursued from the beginning when I started my journey as a volunteer in a nursing home, even before starting my studies.  

Having been exposed to the work environment prior to commencing studies allowed me to understand whether I could see myself in the industry over the longer term, and also provided me with amazing and important experiences that later I would understand from a theoretical point of view in my classes. 

Currently, having the combination of theoretical studies and practical work experience allows me to continuously improve my work, maximising the quality and effectiveness of the service I deliver for my clients. 

IA: As someone early on in their career what would be your advice to those considering a career in the aged care sector? 

Paulo Pavani: I would advise anyone considering a career in the aged care sector to begin their journey with extensive research on the sector and its characteristics. Understanding the reality, challenges, work and educational opportunities, financial aspects and perhaps talking to people that have experience in the field is a great start. 

As a second step, consider a volunteer experience for a few months at least to find yourself within the work environment and to experience the different challenges the industry presents. This may help you to gain some clarity regarding your future decisions in the sector. There are people that may realise they prefer only to be a volunteer and others may notice a career is a real possibility. 

As a third step, and considering the first two steps were effectively realised, I would advise considering short courses (6-12 months) that allow the person to build the foundation skills and knowledge to start working in the sector.  

From there a wide range of possibilities will be within your reach and it will be up to every person to decide how, when and what the next step will be. 

Editor’s note: One of Inside Ageing’s agenda topics is the workforce and for this reason, we aim to carry stories that highlight the opportunity of working in the aged care sector and how to improve outcomes by using technology, innovation and learning. There is also a free service for employers to advertise jobs.

This story is able to be shared or re-published without infringing our copyright.

Employers are encouraged to use it as part of their own marketing.

Sean – Inside Ageing

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