Fight to save successful school recruitment program

Aged & Community Services Tasmania (ACST) has vowed to fight for a program that connects high school students with aged care facilities, which has been axed by the state government.


Darren Mathewson
Darren Mathewson

Aged & Community Services Tasmania (ACST) is undertaking a campaign to have an axed recruitment program that connects high school students with aged care facilities continued or replaced, said the peak’s CEO Darren Mathewson.

The Tasmanian State Government announced funding cuts to the Guaranteeing Futures initiative, which includes the Aiding the Aged program, as part of its cost-cutting measures in last Thursday’s budget.

The Aiding the Aged program, which was featured in the July-August issue of Australian Ageing Agenda, is run by the Tasmanian Department of Education in partnership with ACST and TasTAFE.

The program introduces year 10 and 11 students to the broad range of careers available in aged care. Students are taken on a tour of a facility, talk with staff and residents and participate in lifestyle activities and caring tasks.

One of the aged care sector’s attraction, recruitment and retention strategies, providers reported that the program was bringing about positive results with employee and volunteer recruitment.

Mr Mathewson said cutting the program would significantly impact the Tasmania aged care sector’s ability to recruit younger Tasmanians.

“As one of the fastest growing sectors and knowing the service growth and the projected workforce shortages, this is a pretty critical program,” Mr Mathewson told Australian Ageing Agenda on Thursday.

He said it was his understanding that people who have already applied to the program will finish up at the end of year.

“There is a bit more time left in the program and from our point of view there is a little bit more time to have a conversation with government about if not this program, then what?”

AAA reported on the program in our July-Aug issue
AAA reported on the program in our July-Aug issue

Cutting the program was a shortsighted decision especially in a state with both the oldest population and highest youth unemployment in the nation, he said.

“It is particularly important for us that we have that engagement at the high school level. People start to think about careers in aged care in all their diversity and it becomes a career path that they can consider, plus we have has some immediate benefits in terms of people taking up part-time traineeships,” Mr Mathewson said.

State-wide rollout now in doubt

Following a successful pilot program in southern Tasmania with 20 students, about 60 students from the south are participating this year in addition to a group of 15 in northern Tasmania and another of 18 in the north-west of the state.

Blair Brownless, who is the program coordinator within the Tasmanian department of education, said the program was created after aged care was identified as facing a potential skills shortage.

“We worked with ACST, their provider members and schools to get the program up and running and haven’t looked back since. The feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive and I’m just really disappointed that kids won’t get the opportunity to participate in this program in the future,” Mr Brownless said.

He said the program highlighted to students the many aged care career opportunities.

“It’s not just nursing and caring, it is also hairdressing, cooking, gardening, lifestyle and leisure,” Mr Brownless told AAA in May.

In addition to a number of students taking up a part-time traineeship, where they work part-time while also attending school, Mr Mathewson said several students have joined volunteer programs with an aged care facility.

“We have exposed the students to aged care as a career and provided them with that critical experience and connection with not only those people who work in aged care but our residents and clients and that has been extremely beneficial.”

Mr Mathewson said they plan to approach the education minister and advise him of the detail and the benefits of the program and seek to examine options about how it could continue.

Tags: acst, darren-mathewson, recruitment, workforce,

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