Rethinking recruitment

When it comes to recruiting new workers, thinking outside the square may provide solutions to meeting workforce demand. Two aged care providers tell AAA about their novel initiatives to attract people to the sector.

When it comes to recruiting new workers, thinking outside the square may provide solutions to meeting workforce demand. Two aged care providers tell AAA about their novel initiatives to attract people to the sector.

The aged care sector offers potential employees flexible working conditions, varied and increasingly specialised work, and potential for career progression.

Yet recruitment and retention has remained an ongoing issue for the sector. Dire predictions abound of the number of new recruits required to meet demand.

Here, two leading providers share initiatives that have expanded their workforce.

New opportunities

John Kelly, 57, was a copper piping manufacturer for 28 years before he was retrenched in 2014.

John Kelly
John Kelly

Not yet ready to retire, Kelly began to think about the next step. At the time, his father, who had dementia, was living in aged care. He thought care work might be something he’d possibly like to turn his hand to.

“I thought maybe I could help other older people to have a better life as they’re ageing,” he says.

Kelly completed a Certificate III in aged care at IRT College, before going onto a job at IRT William Beach Gardens in Wollongong.

The Illawarra region’s economy is in transition, with traditional employers, such as the mining and manufacturing industry facing decline.

The IRT Group has sought to work with companies going through redundancies to offer retrenched employees a viable career alternative in the expanding aged care sector.

“We started as a company in Wollongong and we’re committed to this region; we’re keen to see it continue to flourish,” IRT Group CEO Nieves Murray tells Australian Ageing Agenda.

“As a rapidly growing organisation, we’ve needed to boost our employee numbers and get the right people on our team. We’ve worked with those companies to make sure that we’ve been able to attract good people.”

Murray says many employees coming from mining or manufacturing industries have skills that are directly transferrable to non-care roles, such as IT, marketing and project management.

Nieves Murray
Nieves Murray

However, IRT has a parallel strategy through IRT College to retrain workers into care roles, particularly those in the later stages of their careers, like Kelly.

Around a third of IRT College students are aged over 40, and last year the IRT Foundation partnered with the Australian Human Rights Commission to sign a ‘statement of intent’ to collaborate on a range of pilot projects to boost mature age workforce participation.

Murray says she would encourage other providers to start looking “well and truly” outside the aged care sector when it comes to recruitment.

“We’re changing as an industry very rapidly, our customers are demanding different things from us and the government is increasingly stepping away from funding us. That will require us to think very differently to the way we have historically.

“Some of these newer recruits from outside our industry have already gone through some of those things in their own industries, so they bring a level of resilience and different ways of looking at things.”

A chance to succeed

Ellen Flint
Ellen Flint

Benetas has recently partnered with the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) to offer marginalised job seekers a way into a career in aged care.

Given the Chance, as the program is called, is a BSL initiative designed to connect disadvantaged people with employment that builds on their existing skills.

Under the program, Benetas has employed three aged care graduates of refugee background as personal care workers at its Gladswood Lodge facility. They will work there for six months, with the potential for ongoing employment.

Benetas general manager people development Ellen Flint says Benetas and BSL are committed to working together to invest in these workers’ careers.

Flint says the employees so far have been highly diligent, hardworking and keen. Occasionally there are cultural issues to be worked out, but she says staff have been very supportive and engaged with participants to work through issues.

Unity Omaregie
Unity Omaregie

Unity Omaregie, a 44-year-old refugee from Nigeria, looked to the Given the Chance program after he found his Certificate III in aged care and previous placements were not seen as enough experience to secure employment.

He says working at Benetas has assisted him to build his confidence, particularly around Australian working culture, and that the program has offered him a foundation to build his career.

In particular, he notes has built great rapport with residents, with some of his colleagues gently teasing him when they ask after him specifically. “I’m happy any time I come into work,” says Omaregie.

The extended version of this report appears in the current issue of AAA magazine (March-April).

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Tags: benetas, brotherhood-of-st-laurence, career progression, ellen flint, irt, IRT College, nieves-murray, recruitment, retention, Unity Omaregie, workforce, working conditions,

3 thoughts on “Rethinking recruitment

  1. I work in age care. I do not like the idea of “disadvantaged” groups being given work. Whilst the story of the refugee who found work is gratifying the word disadvantaged brings to mind those who have fought social, drug and health issues. Our aged are highly vulnerable and well meaning intent is not enough to protect them from negligent or abusive care. Standards should be as high as possible, not bent out of misplaced sympahty or a need to fill the workforce cheaply. I dread the idea of my turn coming in such circumstances. Already the industry is suffering from profit mongering and lack of respect, especially from employment services, including Centrelink. The sentiment expressed in your article, that if you can’t get a job you should try Age Care, is insulting. We can do better.

  2. Yet another case of large educational providers making a mockery of the funded training space by manipulating the disadvantaged with false hopes of employment. The training will be mediocre at best and the employment outcomes will be very low.

    How about we switch the focus to high quality training and student recruitment processes to ensure a higher quality of graduate.

    … what we should be trying to do is recruit passionate, genuine, caring individuals who want to change the lives of elderly Australians for the better….

  3. I am from a disadvantaged group, grew up initially in a ‘war-torn’ country before moving to Australia. Let me remind those readers with a tunnel vision of viewing the disadvantaged groups as risk to the elderly that these disadvantaged groups can have the highest levels of sensitivities, empathy, and respect for the elderly and can/will be strong contributors to the aged care sector. I have also worked in other industries before transitioning to aged care and now hold a senior management position for one of the highest quality aged care providers in Australia. The ideas I have contributed to my organisation, its service delivery because of the combination of my life & other industry experiences are outside-the-box, creative, and innovative.

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