Aged care employers are refusing to hire qualified graduates of Certificate III in Aged Care courses because of concerns over the quality of their training, new research has found.
In particular facilities are sceptical about very short courses offering simulated rather than workplace training and courses with minimal clinical supervision.
In the NSW study, two out of the 10 employers surveyed refused to employ new graduates on the grounds their clinical skills and knowledge were unacceptable and risked patient safety. A further two facilities said they would only accept graduates with a Certificate IV in Aged Care qualification.
Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) in this study were offering courses as short as four weeks’ duration and clinical exposure ranging from 90 to 120 hours. One RTO did not offer any clinical supervision to students on work placement.
According to the latest aged care workforce statistics, half of residential care facilities faced a shortage of personal care workers and one-third of community care providers were short of community care workers.
The researchers said it was a major concern that RTOs were able to charge students widely varying fees – in some cases thousands of dollars – for highly variable education content, clinical experience and employment prospects.
The authors wrote:
“There is a significant risk that students will pay high fees to obtain qualifications that either are too low a level or are tacitly unacceptable to employers.”
The study by Sharlene Smith and Stella Stevens from the University of Tasmania was published in the latest issue of the Australasian Journal on Ageing and adds to similar findings made by the national VET regulator in its major review of aged care training released in December.
To help address some of these issues, Ms Smith and Ms Stevens called for this workforce to be regulated under the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency and for the titles and roles of care workers to be clarified and more clearly defined.
The authors said tougher regulation would help ensure the content, duration and quality of work placements offered by Certificate III in Aged Care courses became standardised.
LASA CEO Patrick Reid said minimal requirements for registering as a training organisation was contributing to uncontrolled supply and highly variable quality.
As a registered training organisation in two states, LASA is competing with courses provided by some RTOs for as low as $100, he said.
Mr Reid said LASA supported greater scrutiny of RTOs and course delivery but that government funding levels also needed to be adequate to ensure delivery of education was sustainable.
“State and federal governments cannot abrogate their responsibility to improve skills and assist industry in providing high quality staff for the care of older Australians,” he said.
The issue of variable course standards also featured prominently in evidence to the Productivity Commission’s Caring for Older Australians inquiry in 2011.
Related Australian Ageing Agenda coverage: Regulator urges action on aged care training
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