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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Adult community education a solution option for solving the aged care workforce shortage

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By Theresa Collignon, CEO Macquarie Community College

We all want better care for the people we love in aged care – and having dedicated, well trained and caring carers is part of that picture.

So, where and how will this seemingly accelerating workforce gap be filled? One surprising answer might be to look to the Adult Community Education (ACE) providers that are training thousands of students in aged care every year.  

In aged care training in particular, ACE providers are an exceptionally important, but often overlooked, part of the nation’s training infrastructure that moves people into employment in areas of critical skills shortage. Approximately 23 per cent of all NSW enrolments in funded training at Certificate 3 and 4 levels in aged care in 2019 got their training through ACE providers across the state.

Better still, they have moved almost all their students into jobs. At Macquarie Community College, almost all of our students in aged care training are offered employment during their work placements.  Our Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing and Disability Specialisation) provides an alternative education pathway that is inclusive of backgrounds, experience levels and removes barriers felt by so many Australians.

Olga Terfezine, a Sudan-born, Italian-Ethiopian mother of four successfully completed her Certificate at Macquarie Community College, but only after years of false starts and putting her dreams on the backburner.

“For me, the course at Macquarie Community College was the absolute best available for someone with my experience and general industry understanding. I was able to complete it at a pace that suited me and I have been lucky enough to gain a job through an aged care work placement that was organised by the college,” Terfezine said.

Why are ACE providers so successful? I would argue it is because we are place-based, student-centered and inclusive – this creates a welcoming and flexible environment that helps learners progress along their pathway to employment. We have proven to be agile and innovative and able to recruit students, trainees and trainers in order to meet the needs of our communities and aged care and home care employers.

Even more importantly, where ACE providers really do the “heavy lifting” in the aged care sectors is our work with migrants and others that face barriers to participate in training and employment. We are exceptional at working with students that may not have the confidence or experience of engaging in post-secondary training and education in Australia – but have the potential to be valued and long-term employees in caring careers thanks to their lived experiences, skills and capabilities.

More than 37 per cent of Australia’s front line care workers in 2016 were born overseas with English as a second language – and that proportion was growing rapidly until migration effectively came to a halt. Aged care employers have long recognised that being able to speak multiple languages and bringing cultural diversity and perspectives to work is a powerful pair, benefitting a multicultural society.

Getting back to basics and teaching foundational skills like English as a second language, literacy, numeracy, digital literacy and work readiness are key drivers of our great outcomes. In addition to supporting students, we’re also collaborating with community employers, and agencies supporting jobseekers, migrants and others interested in a caring career.

One such organisation has been partnering with Macquarie Community College for several years, working with students to complete their mandatory hours and finding a mutual values alignment that has led to multiple full-time job offers at the conclusion of their work experiences.

SydWest Multicultural Services CEO, Elfa Moraitakis, said SydWest and Macquarie Community College have a long history working together to empower migrant women and meet community needs.

“We are always looking for great staff to work in our services. It is great to think that our clients from a culturally and linguistically diverse background in our aged care and home care services will be able to be cared for by bicultural and bilingual staff. When both clients and staff have lived experiences as migrants and understand the cultural nuances in care, there is a unique and special bond that can result.”

A March 2022 Department of Health [report] noted ‘Senior Australians need a skilled, diverse and compassionate care and support workforce.’ Community colleges like ours are ready, willing and able to work with government, employers and individuals to be part of achieving that goal.

To find out more about Macquarie Community College and the courses that closing the gap on the aged care workforce shortage head to our website.

About Theresa Collignon

Theresa is the CEO of Macquarie Community College, bringing more than 20 years of local and international not-for-profit education experience. She is the deputy chair of Community Colleges Australia and is a graduate of the AICD Company Director’s Course. Her qualifications also include an MBA, Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing) and a Diploma in Financial Markets.

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