Benetas is attempting to overcome workforce challenges with a program that provides on-the-job paid training for personal care workers.
The Spark traineeship provides a structured pathway for people without existing aged care qualifications to undertake workplace learning, formal training, and a Certificate III in Individual Support over nine months to one year.
Head of Talent and Capability Andrew Jamieson said the program offered a solution to identified workforce gaps in the sector.
“The employment market is incredibly competitive at the moment, especially with the effects of COVID restrictions on overseas workers and students – this has a knock-on effect for aged care,” he said.
“We train new employees to the standard of care that we want at Benetas.
“We pay trainees to work and learn, and to attend their Certificate III course. They spend a significant amount of time learning on the job with a buddy – many more hours than the traditional 120 required in the Certificate III.”
The program has mainly recruited people in their early 20s as opposed to high school graduates. They end the year as a qualified personal care worker with months of practical experience under their belt. About 25 people have qualified.
Mr Jamieson said the key was finding people with the right values and attitude to thrive in the aged care industry, acknowledging it was low-paid work.
He pointed to the significant time investment in the traineeship from an in-house “buddy”, more than the 12 hours required under the Certificate III process, and the additional learning modules in dementia care and palliative care.
He said with Australia’s ageing population it was a career that would generate increasing opportunities.
“It’s incredibly meaningful and rewarding work, contributing to our residents and clients living their best life,” he said.
“You can genuinely make a difference. You will continue to grow and learn.”
While Benetas builds capacity through training, Wesley Mission Queensland is focusing on broadening its recruitment across age groups.
More than one-third of workers at the aged care and community care organisation are aged over 50 years and more than one in seven staff is older than 60 years. Their oldest employee is almost 89.
Director of People and Culture at Wesley Mission Queensland, Steve Eltis, said the organisation made active efforts to retain its workers.
“These workers make an incredible contribution to the services we provide and we introduced our ‘No Barriers’ program some years ago to encourage our older employees to remain with us as long as possible,” he said.
“People are living and working longer and as an age-friendly employer, we are committed to creating a work environment that suits everyone.”
The program allows people aged over 50 the option to craft flexible working arrangements, or reducing their hours.
The not-for-profit pointed to research from the Australian HR Institute and the Australian Human Rights Commission that indicated 16.9 percent of employers classified people aged 51 to 55 as an “older worker” compared to 12.5 percent in 2014.