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Supporting upskilling of dispersed workforce


Leadership, communication and collaboration are consistently seen as the top three skills people managers want and online training can help foster these skills, writes Scott Cooper.

Almost a quarter of a million people are employed as direct care providers in Australia’s aged care sector. The government has estimated this number needs to increase two to three times by 2050 to look after the ageing population.

At the same time, there’s already an urgent shortage of skills and highly-trained people within the sector.

Scott Cooper

Why is the sector struggling to attract and retain skilled people? One barrier identified by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is a lack of training and support, specifically in relation to properly attending to residents with complex care needs.

Put simply, professionals are leaving the aged care sector because they’re not getting adequate training. If they had better support, retention rates would be higher and the overall quality of care would be improved.

Providing better training for aged care staff is critical to retaining current workers, and attracting and upskilling new employees.

According to the Department of Health’s report on the workforce, 80 percent of Australian residential care workers took part in work-related training in the previous 12 months. But there’s a need for much more. Aged care employees must be regularly instructed on up-to-date best practices for their industry, and online training is a key way to deliver this.

As well as enabling team members to work through learning at their own pace, online training provides managers with the ability to easily monitor individual results and identify outstanding employees, as well as those who may need extra support. These are my thoughts on why our aged care system would benefit from a widespread adoption of online training tools.

Technology becomes the great equaliser

Amid the aged care royal commission, the Aged Care Quality Standards were rolled out by the federal government in July this year. Standard 7 directly relates to human resources and the role of technology in streamlining team management and training.

Given that aged care employees work in casual, part time and full-time roles – with many rostered over 24 hours in varying shifts – creating coherent teams and fostering collaboration is challenging. Leadership, communication and collaboration are consistently seen as the top three skills wanted by talent developers and people managers, and online training can help foster these skills in a dispersed workforce.

Additionally, methods and regulatory regimes continue to evolve. This means that staff trained via new methods will allow an aged care organisation to be more efficient and competitive, while making it easier to deploy new technologies.

Undertraining will be a thing of the past

In the aged care, home care and disability sectors, under-training is a significant issue. Many staff members enter the sector as inexperienced, low-waged casuals. Many acquire the knowledge and education to grow into future roles, but this takes time. And with the government holding the royal commission, it’s anticipated that even more rigorous standards will be brought in. The government has already highlighted problems with the quality of aged care services, and stated that they are “in need of substantial reform”.

E-learning platforms enable organisations to identify exactly where skills are lacking, and provide specific, individualised learning. This ultimately leads to a more skilled workforce.

The cost of training will reduce

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to training, and a significant amount of time and money is wasted on traditional corporate, face-to-face training. Training sessions often repeat themselves, or certain staff members may be absent and miss out altogether. Others may lack interest in the content provided and its delivery.

With online learning, good content can be inexpensive, and targeted to individual learners. Online learning can also leverage expertise from industry leaders and people outside an organisation, and we work with many partners who are experts in a particular field, such as aged care or mental health.

You’ll attract engaged employees

Highly skilled staff are an organisational asset, and organisations that offer ongoing training attract more, higher quality applicants, and enjoy better staff retention rates.

According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report, 94 per cent of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers.

Professional development can also have a commercial benefit to the organisation, as people pick up new skills. Enterprises need to think about ways to make learning easier and better. Organisations often describe their people as their “number one asset”, so investing in that asset makes sense.

With an ageing population, it’s more important than ever to protect Australia’s most vulnerable citizens. While they may not appear to be linked, online training and the welfare of our ageing community are very much connected.

Ultimately, online training means that a worker can be the master of their own training plan and choose to upskill where and when they want. This enables people to propel their own careers.

They can work their own way up, learn in their own time and use their own initiative – and ultimately benefit their organisation by being more skilled and valuable at what they do.

Scott Cooper is vice-president of marketing at training provider GO1.com.

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2 Responses to Supporting upskilling of dispersed workforce

  1. Anton Hutchinson November 29, 2019 at 7:11 pm #

    There isn’t anything wrong with the current system of employment in residential aged care. We have a very steady workforce that are appreciated and respected.
    Advancement is up to the individual, if someone brings us a problem AND a possible solution we run with it and have that staff member following through. Lots of appreciation and thats both ways.
    The biggest skill is empathy and another piece of paper or a pay rise doesn’t guarantee a better outcome.
    That said, we believe a properly funded pay rise is in order.
    It’s a shame that the liberal government doesn’t respect the elderly or the people that care for them. I’m sure we will all remember next election.

  2. Caroline December 3, 2019 at 7:40 pm #

    While I applaud the discussion, some of the arguments do not recognise the full context of working and upskilling in the aged care sector.

    1. What does ‘highly trained’ mean? Who exactly is being referred to in terms of this shortage? nursing staff/care workers? I have 3 degrees and had 1 qualification before I entered the care sector as a home care worker (while studying for a 2nd undergrad). Does that mean that I’m under-qualified, unskilled? I now have 3 degrees. Still poorly paid so am I now considered highly qualified?

    2. It’s not that there are unqualified workers. It’s just that the majority of workers in this sector are women who are unable, for various reasons inc caring roles, to independently design their life around family, mortgages or rent, and then tertiary studies with high fees. We don’t have scholarships, bursaries, etc to support people who care about getting ahead – even on their own terms.

    3. Why does the sector struggle to attract and retain people? Simple – the pay is inadequate to meet living costs in Sydney for example. I started out in 2001 paid at the rate of $13/hour. I already had a Bachelor’s degree and doing another. Workers in community have to have a car + meet costs of comprehensive insurance, and damages to vehicles (+ excess). Why should women, largely, be so disadvantaged?

    4. Training and support – not all of us are dependent on organisations to support our training needs. But for the majority, at direct care level, training is important as a baseline to support older people. But it’s ad hoc as I witnessed in a HCP provider. Online training is an option but at what cost? Who will pay the time to do that online training? I know the support staff at this particular HCP provider refused any online training because it was not considered paid time. I entered this sector as an inexperienced, low waged casual but I chose to use that experience to inform my thesis and build my knowledge about older people and ageing. Understanding people’s motivations and supporting their goals is important. Learning must be a 2-way street.

    5. Professional development – the first thing any aged care org needs to do is to validate people’s skills and their benefit to an organisation. Sometimes a person with empathy and compassion does more for the person than having formal learning. There are some skills that cannot be learned as it’s inherent to the person. I hope the sector moves towards a registration of workers, as this will improve the credibility and learning opportunities for aged care workers beyond base qualifications.

    I am passionate about the worker’s voice. I’ve been there. I know that the struggle of learning and recognition is real.

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