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Friday, December 8, 2023

New work readiness program equipping NSW early career staff with everything required to excel in aged care

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Newly arrived workers to the aged care sector in areas of New South Wales are invited to take advantage of a new, rigorous training program, providing much needed capacity building for a workforce in crisis.           

The Work Readiness Program, run by Selmar Institute of Education and Catalyst Education, is a four-week, full-time online program that provides the foundational skills, behavioural skills and mindsets to set learners up for success in a career as an aged care worker.

Following successful completion of the program, aged care trainees will be eligible for a 12-month work placement with a Uniting NSW/ACT aged care provider – either in a residential or home care setting.

Furthermore, trainees will be accredited with a Certificate III in Individual Support upon completion of the placement, equipping them for successful aged care employment across Australia.

Jo Asquith, chief executive officer at Catalyst Education, tells Aged Care News that the programme has been developed in close partnership with aged care providers to ensure that trainees are prepared for all aspects of the job, with hopes to improve retentions rates in the industry.

“We talk about being part of the solution, which sounds a bit trite because we say it so often, but what is absolutely critical is to get a pipeline of people into that sector; it’s about developing workers who are really skilled, who can provide better care outcomes for our senior Australians.

“So that’s where partnering with the sector and aged care providers is so important, so that we can be really close to the employer and what they want and make sure that’s reflected in our programme.”

Jo Asquith, chief executive officer at Catalyst Education, says that an optimal
aged care workforce will comprise workers with finely tuned interpersonal skills,
including empathy, problem solving and conflict resolution.

A key aspect providers have been “crying out for”, says Asquith, is adaptive skills.

“They used to be called ‘soft skills’; now it’s ‘adaptive’ or ‘human skills’,” Asquith explains, “mainly because we think they’re as important as what you term as ‘hard skills’.

“They’re  the interpersonal skills – the problem solving, working in teams, conflict resolution – that are absolutely critical to this sector.

“Technical skills can be learned [on the job], but we really want our future employment pipeline to have those adaptive skills… so that was the big focus of what we were teaching in the Work Readiness Program.”

Applications are now open for the April 2022 intake, off the back of a successful inaugural training round in late 2021.

“We were really pleased with the outcome,” Asquith says.

It was especially encouraging, she notes, to observe the diverse pool of talent that came through last year’s intake.

“People are wanting to look after their own ageing population, so it’s a very multicultural programme.

“We had about 25 per cent new Australians, persons who newly arrived in the country, so that was great.

“We also had about 10 per cent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners who applied to the programme.

“Not all of those people went on to complete the programme, but I think that’s a really good indication that we’re getting some real interest in our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

Furthermore, she noticed a lot of interest from women returning to work after long gaps of unemployment or maternity leave.

“… also [people deciding on a] career change, entering into the aged care sector because it was something that they really felt passionate about and they wanted to do,” Asquith says.

Indeed, as with the current aged care workforce, she notes that most applicants so far have been female.

“Gender always skews towards female, because that’s the nature of the sector.

“That’s something we want to address over time, because it’d be really great to have more of a gender mix in there.”

For the April intake, traineeships are only available for those living in the Sydney Metro, Greater Western Sydney, Newcastle or Orange areas.

However, as a great testament to its promise, talks have begun to enable the expansion of the programme interstate.

“We’ve had a lot of providers knocking on our door,” Asquith says.

“We’re onto something that is really a big hit with providers.”

To find out more about the program and how to apply, follow this link.

The Work Readiness Program is powered by Generation Australia, an organisation delivering education-to-employment programs that support people facing barriers to employment.

With a specific focus on high-demand industries such as healthcare and technology, Generation Australia connects adults of all ages – whether unemployed, underemployed, or needing to learn new skills – to the training and support need to kickstart their careers.

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