Innovative training key to preventing workforce shortages

Innovation is the key to ensuring there’s enough well-trained staff to care for Australians as they age, IRT Group has said in response to the aged care census released earlier this week.

The census, run by the National Institute of Labour Studies, found that while the majority of workers plan to stay in the industry and job satisfaction is overall quite high, perceptions of aged care work are still low.

An ageing workforce, looming skills shortage and increased competition with the disability services sector are emerging issues.

Growth is a key issue for the sector, which needs an additional 980,000 aged care workers by 2050, with the average age of residential aged care employees now 46 years and 52 years of age for home care employees.

“The majority of our 2300-strong national workforce work in direct care roles, so we know aged care employees are highly skilled and love their work,” said Nieves Murray, IRT Group Chief Executive.

“It’s great to see this reflected in the report, which found high levels of post-school education and training, and high job satisfaction amongst the 15,000 aged care workers surveyed.”

“Our mature age workers are highly valued, but to meet this demand we need more younger people to join our profession. At IRT, we believe that innovation is the answer,” Ms Murray said.

IRT’s registered training organisation, IRT College pioneered a school-based traineeship with the NSW Department of Education. It’s also developed training programs targeted at university students and young people who’ve experience long-term unemployment.

“These innovative programs have been really successful and we need to see more of this across the sector,” Ms Murray said.

The community-owned organisation is also ensuring it’s a great place to work. Innovative performance management and reward programs have been rolled out nationally and it’s about to embark on a Move 4 Life program to improve employee safety.

Other providers have also begun partnering with tertiary institutions and RTOs to offer students practical work experience prior to completing their studies or developing on the job training programs.

Southern Cross Care SA & NT is working in partnership with several RTOs to create opportunities for students to learn on the job and it has restructured its internal training to up-skill all staff with a focus on health promotion and healthy ageing.

New approaches to training are not only being adapted by residential care providers. Better Caring recently entered into a partnership with the Melbourne-based Selmar Institute of Education to provide students with on-the-job experience and at the same time give young people who need social and domestic assistance greater options for support.

While the peak bodies both welcomed the census report, ACSA CEO Pat Sparrow said it’s time for Government to follow through on its promise of an industry-led workforce strategy.

“Aged care and disability services are two of the most important social services and it is crucial that the workforce to provide quality care and support is available for both sectors now and into the future,” Ms Sparrow said.

“The development of an aged care workforce strategy is imperative to achieving a sustainable and growing workforce. This would also look at the negative perceptions of those yet to enter the industry of aged care work as an occupation of low status and pay.”

“The Government has made statements about supporting the development of industry-led workforce strategy for some time now. The release of the Workforce Census results reinforces that it’s now time for the Government to follow through on its promise.”

LASA Chief Executive Officer Sean Rooney said the report provides valuable insights into the aged care workforce and generally speaking most of the results and indicators are encouraging.

“Overall the snapshot of the sector is encouraging with improved working conditions providing a stable and committed workforce,” Mr Rooney said.

“While the report highlights there are some negative perceptions about careers in aged care, within the industry, there are many genuine career opportunities across the sector that can make a meaningful difference to the lives of older Australians.

“Within the industry, we know that aged care professionals derive a sense of satisfaction from the positive benefits they bring to those they are caring for, they find their careers satisfying and value the career opportunities the sector provides.

“We need to create more awareness that working in aged care can be a very rewarding career pathway, both personally and professionally.”

Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, said that future workforce planning by the aged care industry, including efforts to attract and retain staff, must incorporate all roles within an organisation – not just nursing and care roles – and consider the global context of labour supply and demand.

“We tend to focus on workforce as being those who care for people, but if we’re going to develop pathways into aged care for young people what other jobs are there?,” the Minister said in this exclusive interview with Inside Ageing.

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