When it comes to recruiting new workers, thinking outside the square may provide solutions to meeting workforce demand. Two aged care providers tell AAA about their novel initiatives to attract people to the sector.
The aged care sector offers potential employees flexible working conditions, varied and increasingly specialised work, and potential for career progression.
Yet recruitment and retention has remained an ongoing issue for the sector. Dire predictions abound of the number of new recruits required to meet demand.
Here, two leading providers share initiatives that have expanded their workforce.
John Kelly, 57, was a copper piping manufacturer for 28 years before he was retrenched in 2014.
Not yet ready to retire, Kelly began to think about the next step. At the time, his father, who had dementia, was living in aged care. He thought care work might be something he’d possibly like to turn his hand to.
“I thought maybe I could help other older people to have a better life as they’re ageing,” he says.
Kelly completed a Certificate III in aged care at IRT College, before going onto a job at IRT William Beach Gardens in Wollongong.
The Illawarra region’s economy is in transition, with traditional employers, such as the mining and manufacturing industry facing decline.
The IRT Group has sought to work with companies going through redundancies to offer retrenched employees a viable career alternative in the expanding aged care sector.
“We started as a company in Wollongong and we’re committed to this region; we’re keen to see it continue to flourish,” IRT Group CEO Nieves Murray tells Australian Ageing Agenda.
“As a rapidly growing organisation, we’ve needed to boost our employee numbers and get the right people on our team. We’ve worked with those companies to make sure that we’ve been able to attract good people.”
Murray says many employees coming from mining or manufacturing industries have skills that are directly transferrable to non-care roles, such as IT, marketing and project management.
However, IRT has a parallel strategy through IRT College to retrain workers into care roles, particularly those in the later stages of their careers, like Kelly.
Around a third of IRT College students are aged over 40, and last year the IRT Foundation partnered with the Australian Human Rights Commission to sign a ‘statement of intent’ to collaborate on a range of pilot projects to boost mature age workforce participation.
Murray says she would encourage other providers to start looking “well and truly” outside the aged care sector when it comes to recruitment.
“We’re changing as an industry very rapidly, our customers are demanding different things from us and the government is increasingly stepping away from funding us. That will require us to think very differently to the way we have historically.
“Some of these newer recruits from outside our industry have already gone through some of those things in their own industries, so they bring a level of resilience and different ways of looking at things.”
A chance to succeed
Benetas has recently partnered with the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) to offer marginalised job seekers a way into a career in aged care.
Given the Chance, as the program is called, is a BSL initiative designed to connect disadvantaged people with employment that builds on their existing skills.
Under the program, Benetas has employed three aged care graduates of refugee background as personal care workers at its Gladswood Lodge facility. They will work there for six months, with the potential for ongoing employment.
Benetas general manager people development Ellen Flint says Benetas and BSL are committed to working together to invest in these workers’ careers.
Flint says the employees so far have been highly diligent, hardworking and keen. Occasionally there are cultural issues to be worked out, but she says staff have been very supportive and engaged with participants to work through issues.
Unity Omaregie, a 44-year-old refugee from Nigeria, looked to the Given the Chance program after he found his Certificate III in aged care and previous placements were not seen as enough experience to secure employment.
He says working at Benetas has assisted him to build his confidence, particularly around Australian working culture, and that the program has offered him a foundation to build his career.
In particular, he notes has built great rapport with residents, with some of his colleagues gently teasing him when they ask after him specifically. “I’m happy any time I come into work,” says Omaregie.
The extended version of this report appears in the current issue of AAA magazine (March-April).
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