As a young person, first exploring the aged care industry eight years ago, I didn’t meet many people under 35.
I realised that if we wanted to help build a better system, young people were fundamental to the future, especially when the median age of staff is around 50.
Their wisdom and mentoring is invaluable, but I envision the solution in breaking stereotypes of this sector through helping young people see age services as a growing, dynamic and innovative career pathway.
Building a pipeline of talent is complex and without additional Government investment, or higher service costs, we are unlikely to see increased wages and resources for staff.
Independent reports have shown repeatedly there is under-resourcing for aged care, plus high stress reported by staff, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have seen the need to invest in age services and our peers, to ensure our treasured older Australians receive safe and quality care at all times – and there is no doubt much more needs to be done.
The age services sector is consistently ranked as one the nation’s top 5 growth employers, with job creation spaces including in clinical care, hospitality, management, horticulture, and even robotics and Artificial Intelligence.
The Federal Department of Education, Skills and Employment says occupations such as Aged and Disability Carers and Personal Carers are likely to record strong growth in coming years.
This places at risk the quality and safety of those we care about, as we continue to attract less and less staff into our workplaces, leaving skills gaps unfilled and placing additional stress on those remaining to care and support our older adults.
Some of our young leaders feel confronted and are not as connected as they should be.
Meanwhile, others have shared collaboration and innovation, overcoming challenges and creating new avenues to highlight the positive work they are doing.
Sharing these achievements is a vital way to reflect on our impact in the workplace and give back to those new to the age services sector.
Communicating their great work to our communities is also critical.
For decades, our Government and industry has focused on bringing young workers into aged care through traineeships and vocational training.
There needed to be a robust and engaged age services network where young leaders and workers could support and inspire each other, where they could dream bigger and link with their peers.
My focus is on our next generation of aged care careers and leaders – and that is why LASA’s (Leading Age Services Australia) Next Gen program was established.
COVID-19 has complicated our connections even further, with physical meetings and events remaining uncertain into the future.
At the same time, young people in aged care have taken on a myriad of projects, putting themselves at risk of burnout or leaving the sector entirely.
We certainly can’t expect older workers, our parents and grandparents to achieve the transformation in aged care by themselves.
We need to make sure young people understand they can be empowered through the many job choices in aged care and they can be drivers of change, through a rapidly growing area of opportunity.
The Royal Commission has made strong recommendations on workforce, while there is also much work underway towards improving staffing levels, skills and qualifications, career paths and wages.
To help drive this, LASA Next Gen is celebrating young leaders and workers in age services through a national get-together on May 28.
The LASA Next Gen Forum has been created by young leaders, for young leaders – a half-day gathering with inspiring panel sessions, engaging presenters and multiple networking opportunities.
Prominent speakers will share insights on industry adaptation, positive ways to use the media, building resilient networks in an online world, and a special session with the CEO of the Aged Care Workforce Industry Council.
This event gives young leaders an opportunity to reflect on their future and the ongoing changes our sector needs to deliver on our mission.
The Forum provides a friendly space to connect with other young leaders, hear how they are navigating around obstacles and ensure we have the support and resources we need to excel.
Young age services professionals will be front and centre of a better future for older Australians – and respected and valued by our communities.
To learn more about the LASA Next Gen Forum visit: https://lasa.asn.au/nextgen-forum