After years of debate, the certificate III in aged care has been replaced with a common qualification across aged care and disability, while mandated work placements have been put in place. But is it enough to address longstanding sector concerns?
A training package review conducted by the Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council (CS&HISC) saw the entry level qualifications for aged care change.
At the Certificate III level, a new qualification, Certificate III in Individual Support, replaced the Certificate III in Aged Care, Certificate III in Home and Community Care and Certificate III in Disability.
Under this qualification, a student completes a common, general core of subjects, and can then choose to specialise in up to two areas: ageing, home and community or disability.
CS&HISC decided to bring together the qualifications in recognition of the common skill sets that exist between the aged care and disability sectors and to enable greater flexibility for workers to move between the two sectors.
As part of the same review, the Certificate IV in Home and Community Care and Certificate IV in Aged Care have also been merged to form the Certificate IV in Ageing Support.
Under both certificates, which were officially endorsed in August, it is now mandatory that students meet a minimum 120-hour workplace requirement. As part of this, many competencies must now be assessed either within the workplace or within a simulated workplace.
Flexible workers and a common skill-set
Jodie Davis, federal education officer for the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, was a member of the industry reference group who advised CS&HISC on the new packages. She says the new qualifications still allow specialisation while addressing commonalities that exist within the sectors.
“Core competencies such as workplace health and safety, communication, anatomy and physiology, inflection control are common to the needs of each of those sectors and the people working within them,” she says.
Davis says the ability to walk away from the qualification with a dual-specialisation will make students more employable, especially as more providers are moving into some or all of the sectors.
Echoing this, Arlene Quinn, people development manager at Baptistcare WA, says that the common core subjects offered by the certificate III will be a useful advantage for providers like Baptistcare who offer residential aged care, community care and disability services.
In particular, she sees benefits for workers with a dual-specialisation in both community care and disability services due to the commonalities in approach.
Wendy Cohen, executive officer of National Disability Practitioners, the professional association of the disability peak National Disability Services, says that the changes to the certificate III address the bigger picture regarding workforce planning as they offer an opportunity to galvanise the sectors, while still acknowledging the different needs of each.
“We’re looking at more a shared responsibility to fill the needs of these sectors,” says Cohen, “particularly if you wanted to relate it to rural and remote areas, where there might be less work in each field, but together these transferrable skills, experience and knowledge mean they can actually fill a couple of different roles.”
Cohen says that the choice offered by the certificate will invariably increase enrolments and the placement will allow students to have a taste of what the work involves, allowing them to choose the field that best suits them.
Work hours welcome, practical issues
Davis says that ensuring workplace requirements was an integral aim of the industry reference group and she hopes it will lead to more consistent levels of training across RTOs, and address long-standing industry concerns regarding varying levels of clinical experience.
“It’s not as open to interpretation as it was before,” she says. “We’ve drilled down on each element to ensure that what needs to be performed on real people and practiced is.”
However, the increased mandated work requirements could prove problematic for aged care providers.
Baptistcare’s Quinn says it is unlikely that community and disability organisations will be able to meet the overall 120-hour work requirements of the new qualifications, due to the person-centred nature of the way they operate.
She also says lower level CDC packages may not give students a broad enough experience to reach competency.
“Going into a Home Care Package Level 1 or 2 – what will a student actually get from that experience, other than how to communicate or how to be person-centred?” she asks.
“However, their program will require them to have certain tasks ticked off… they’ll still need to know how to shower somebody, they’ll still need to know how to administer medications, so some of the logistics around how this will work will be interesting.”
Quinn believes that due to these practical issues, it will fall to residential aged care providers to provide the bulk of the core training. This may mean that students will preference aged care as that’s where their initial job training has occurred, and it may also place strain on aged care providers to meet demand.
“We haven’t offered work placements in our home and community services for over a year in some areas. Disability potentially has the same issue. So most RTOs are going to want to work the 120 hours around a residential aged care facility or a group home facility for disability,” she says.
“We will be in the same situation as so many healthcare systems are, where they have so many students vying for clinical placements.”
Disadvantages aside, the positives of the new qualification are that graduates will have had 120 hours of training which is more than they currently do, says Quinn. “So it’s swings and roundabouts as to how that will play out in the longer term,” she says.
An extended version of this report appears in the Nov-Dec 2015 issue of AAA magazine.
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