Partnerships between aged care providers and vocational training organisations could play an important role in addressing the sectors’ anticipated workforce shortage over the coming years.
It is estimated that the aged care sector will need one million aged care staff by 2050 to cope with the predicted increase of Australia’s ageing population.
Aged care peak bodies, including Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), have recently welcomed the Government’s announcement of a Workforce Taskforce which has employed the efforts of 12 members to develop a strategy to boost the supply of aged care workers in a sector facing critical shortage.
ACSA Chief Executive Officer Pat Sparrow is one of the 12 members of the Taskforce and admits that the aged care workforce is an area in need.
“There are a whole range of issues that are basically driving the need for a workforce strategy, especially as we will need to more than double our workers over the next 10-20 years,” Ms Sparrow says.
“Things like recruiting and retention of staff, supports for staff, making sure the training is right and making sure that it is available are just a few things that we need to look into.
“It’s also important to remember that the aged care workforce isn’t just carers and nurses, it’s also gardeners, lifestyle staff, cooks… there are quite a range of roles.”
With such a need for staff in the coming years, Ms Sparrow welcomes and encourages partnerships between aged care and training providers in working together to build the industry’s workforce but says the partnerships need to be managed well.
“We absolutely need to get these agreements and partnerships right,” she says.
“Aged care providers need to be clear about what skills the need and demand quality from training organisations.
“Training organisations need to make sure they are turning out useful graduates and need to work together with aged care providers to support this growing workforce and make sure we have the worker numbers to address the needs of the older people – because at the end of the day they are who we are here for.”
The long-standing partnership between aged care provider TriCare and TAFE Queensland – Gold Coast Region over the past 20 years is one successful example of how working together has led to the two organisations developing aged care training programs, vocational placement and provide subsequent employment of the TAFE’s graduates into TriCare job roles.
Federal Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Karen Andrews recently met with TAFE Queensland – Gold Coast Region graduates and has applauded the partnership fostered between the training provider and aged care facility.
“It was a real pleasure to meet the graduates who have made their way into great jobs through their vocational education and training with Gold Coast TAFE,” she says.
“Closer collaboration between industry and training providers is essential to ensuring students get the skills employers are looking for and this is a great local example of that.”
TriCare Aged Care Manager, Daniel Aitchison, says that TriCare is a longstanding supporter of the VET sector and recognises the value students bring to an organisation.
“Students come to us with the latest technical knowledge and education, and we give them the practical application in a highly skilled and professional environment,” he says.
“The partnership has been successful and enduring [and] TriCare has the opportunity to recruit from a pool of students with the latest in technical knowledge and education, while TAFE students are placed at a high quality aged care facility where they are exposed to best practice.”
Mr Aitchison says that a successful partnership between training and aged care providers is common within the industry which he says benefits all involved.
“In-depth knowledge by both parties – i.e knowledge of the course and quality of training by the TAFE, and TAFE’s knowledge of our policies and procedures allows for flexibility and a more effective learning experience for both staff and students,” he explains.
Given the aged care workforce is set to grow over the coming years, with a forecast of one million aged care staff needed by 2050, Mr Aitchison says this is definitely a great way to assist in recruiting and retaining aged care workers.
“TriCare seeks highly skilled staff and the knowledge of Registered Training Organisations, that provide excellent grounding knowledge and skill, can only make recruitment easier,” he says.
“[The partnership] also allows access to training for existing staff and the ability to tailor it to TriCare’s needs.”