Critical staff shortages affect more than frontline roles

Recruitment, retention and skill gaps are issues for aged care’s technology and innovation workforce too, write Anne Livingstone and Georgie Gould.

Aged care’s technology and innovation workforce is also experiencing recruitment and retention issues and gaps in skill requirements, write Anne Livingstone and Georgie Gould.

The Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council has concentrated efforts over the past six years on the enabling role that technology can play, but much of our focus has particularly been on what that means for service model design – and specifically workforce development.

From our Technology Aged Care Roadmap in 2017 to the recent projects we have just concluded – including on clinical systems in residential aged care, and benchmarking digital maturity across community care and residential aged care – the needs and requirements of an adequate and skilled workforce have been a key focus.

Anne Livingstone

In these recent research projects, we have identified several issues related to technology and innovation workforces such as the gaps in skill requirements and the retention and recruitment issues – including the current high level of tech and digital roles exiting the sector.

Through this work, we are acutely aware of the workforce shortages this sector is experiencing with respect to the needs of a digitally maturing aged and community care industry.

New workforce roles are required to ensure evidenced based technological and innovative transformations can be realised.

We hear firsthand in our national roundtables the challenges of maintaining and implementing the necessary requirements across technology infrastructure, support, and operations. It is evident the key roles needed for procurement, installation, maintenance, and operation of various technologies are both under-resourced and forecasted to be in short supply long term.

This has been reinforced in the preliminary findings of our ongoing Innovation and Technology Workforce Survey.

Georgie Gould

Early results highlight the high turnover of technical staff in a number of roles, with reports of up to 65 per cent turnover. Service providers have also indicated the difficult position they are in when recruiting new staff and offering competitive wages for these roles.

We are committed to ensuring we have a national strategy to inform building a better technology and innovation workforce.

In this survey, we have reflected on our research for the Department of Health and Aged Care – the CARE-IT Report – and its findings with respect to technology and digital workforces. Our study found that technology can make a significant contribution to supporting the aged care workforce and quality care delivery, but that improvements are needed to ensure that the workforce is truly digitally enabled and mature. These include:

  • workforce technology training and support are not part of common practice
  • 35.8 per cent of organisations fail to provide any training or support in specific areas such as cybersecurity, phishing, data sensitivity, and malware
  • the majority of the organisations do not assess potential workforce members for their digital literacy as part of their recruitment and selection process.

These new roles will allow service providers to appropriately scale the introduction of new technologies and significantly improve the organisation’s digital maturity.

In a recent collaboration with the Australian Digital Health Agency, our national investigation into the use of clinical software in residential aged care facilities found investment in technology workforce training has proven to reduce staff turnover.

In this project, we also found that workforce redesign is critical to enabling the wider program of transformational change needed. New workforce roles are required to ensure evidenced-based technological and innovative transformations can be realised. These new roles will allow service providers to appropriately scale the introduction of new technologies and significantly improve the organisation’s digital maturity.

We are continuing our workforce survey to gain further insights into technology and innovation workforce development. The survey is for both residential aged care and community care providers. Ideally, the person completing this survey has oversight of the orgainsation’s technology and innovation workforce.

We strongly believe the improved uptake of technology and innovation is critical to service providers delivering the high-quality assistance older Australians want and need now and into the future. Equally important is the role that a digitally included and digitally mature workforce will play in achieving this vision and we encourage you to participate in this survey.

If you are a service provider interested in assisting us to advance this agenda, please consider joining one of the ACIITC national roundtables. These roundtables focus on technology-specific considerations, service models and workforce reform and financial considerations. Find out more and express your interest on our website.

Anne Livingstone is executive lead, and Georgie Gould is secretariat, at the Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council

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