More than pay rises:  To address the talent shortage in aged care, we need alternative training and hiring

Malcolm Kinns, CEO of Generation Australia

While the recent 15 per cent pay rise for aged care workers is a long-overdue boost to those already employed, more needs to be done to attract new people to the sector.

In the next five years, Australia is projected to have a shortfall of 100,000 workers in aged care, requiring an urgent re-think on how to attract, train and place people into a critical profession that is increasingly in demand.

Looking beyond traditional pipelines of talent

If we’re going to address skills shortages in this sector, we need to consider a more diverse talent pool. This includes youth, those with a disability, Indigenous Australians and new Australians, plus those returning to the workforce.

Traditional education to employment pathways overlooks this ‘hidden’ talent. However, with the right support, these motivated employees can overcome barriers to find meaningful careers, improving personal outcomes while solving the skills shortage.

When assessing talent, rather than defaulting to lookalike candidates, transferable skills and international qualifications should be considered. Likewise, employers need to resist ageism when recruiting, particularly as Australians are now living and working longer.

We are now seeing a large number of people over 40 moving into new careers; either pivoting into more purposeful work or re-entering the workforce following a period of unemployment, often due to child-rearing and unpaid caring responsibilities.

People who are interested in the sector often have lived experiences, and a level of compassion that can be offered beyond the technical skills learnt. Empathy is an important quality for aged care workers, and this, coupled with training on the specific behavioural and mindset skills required, sets job seekers up for success.

Setting up for success

There is an alarmingly high attrition rate for aged care workers at the start of their career – 48.3 per cent of workers with less than one year’s experience plan to quit by 20241. This shows that, despite the best intentions, employees are not adequately prepared for the requirements of their role.

With this in mind, it is vital that new workers are given the tools to enable them to embrace the challenges of their career, and are provided with the right peer support on the job to help with the tough days.

Beyond training and recruiting practices, the sector itself needs to provide nurturing and supportive environments for employees to ensure personal growth and development, resulting in better outcomes for both workers and those being cared for.

Changing the perceptions of the industry

To attract candidates to aged care roles, employers need to consider how the sector is portrayed, and how they can improve this perception amongst workers, and more broadly.

A career in aged care offers employees the chance to enact real change in the lives of others, which is immensely rewarding.

Similarly, working alongside supportive colleagues with shared values who derive real meaning from their roles is an attractive proposition.

As employees are increasingly purpose-driven, in addition to providing fair remuneration, employers must shift their messaging to showcase the innate satisfaction of providing quality care.

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