Registered training organisations delivering aged care qualifications will have to ensure their students complete mandatory work experience and face tighter assessment requirements under changes due to be signed off by the Department of Education and Training by June.
The Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council (CS&HISC) is currently finalising a comprehensive review of the training packages covering the aged and community care sectors, conducted in consultation with industry.
For the first time, the updated training package will prescribe a minimum of 120 hours of work placement for Certificate III and Certificate IV students, as well as the competencies that will have to be assessed in the workplace.
The changes respond to long-standing industry concerns over the varying level of clinical experience and workplace exposure provided by RTOs delivering entry-level aged care training.
In 2013, a major review into aged care training by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) found that 15 per cent of RTOs provided less than 60 hours of work placement, including some Certificate III in Aged Care courses that failed to provide any work-based training to students.
Strengthening the training packages by specifying minimum work placement hours and workplace assessment requirements was a key recommendation of the ASQA review.
Dorothy Rao, training packages manager at the CS&HISC, said the significant changes would remove any ambiguity about what was required of RTOs in the areas of workplace training and assessment.
“The assessment requirement is also prescriptive in terms of the range and frequency of what has to be demonstrated in the workplace,” she told Australian Ageing Agenda.
Rod Cooke, chief executive officer of CS&HISC, said the changes around mandatory work experience were also likely to focus attention on the availability and quality of VET work placements within the sector, especially as demand for qualified support workers grows significantly.
Employer incentives to boost placements
The latest findings from the CS&HISC e-scan 2015 survey found 64 per cent of RTOs reported difficulties obtaining appropriate work placements for their students and nearly 60 per cent of respondents agreed that a lack of targeted financial incentives for delivering VET placements was a barrier to provision.
Currently, governments only fund clinical placements in universities, while the provision of work placements in VET education is not funded.
Mr Cooke said supporting the sector to deliver appropriate work placements and to increase its training capacity to meet projected workforce demand must be a key government priority.
Some of the critical issues in the provision of work placements to be worked through include high competition for places, the financial and administrative costs to employers, client privacy and consent especially in home care settings, and appropriate induction and supervision of students.
As part of the review, the training packages and qualifications have also been streamlined.
At the Certificate III level, a new generalist qualification called a Certificate III in Individual Support is set to replace the Certificate III in Aged Care, Certificate III in Home and Community Care and Certificate III in Disability.
Under this new qualification, a student can choose to specialise in ageing support, home and community support and disability.
Ms Rao said the certificate III qualifications have been brought together in recognition of the commonality and common skill sets between the three sectors and to enable greater flexibility for workers to move between sectors.
At the Certificate IV level, it is proposed that the aged care and home and community care qualifications will be combined.
The CS&HISC said it expected the new training packages would be endorsed in June.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Certificate III students would be required to complete a minimum of 80 hours of work placement.