Oct 26, 2023

Rural and abroad: Eyes on the globe for workforce solutions

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The expert panel on workforce attraction and retention (L-R): Ken Griffin, CEO, APNA; Katherine Graham, Manager, Marketing & Compliance, Warner Institute; Leanne Braun, Managing Director, Gippsland Home and Community Care; Dan Sandiford, CEO, Groworx; Damien Malone, Operations Manager Aged Care, Village Glen Aged Care Residences.

Aged care innovators and leaders discussed one of the most pressing issues – workforce attraction and retention – at the ACCPA (Aged & Community Care Providers Association) National Conference on Thursday afternoon. 

Ideas, insights and solutions were shared as a room packed full of industry peers listened in eagerly, and HelloCare is sharing some of the top highlights with our readers. 

Career pathways aren’t clear enough

Most of us look to a job as a platform for increasing our knowledge and skills. But it’s rare to enter a job where career progression is clearly defined and that’s one of the major workforce attraction issues listed by Katherine Graham, Manager Marketing & Compliance, Warner Institute.

Ms Graham said career progression is typically clear for clinical staff, yet many entry-level aged care workers or carers rarely have defined pathways on offer.

“When we start to look at the people working in aged care we don’t have a lot of clarity about the career pathways that are available. An entry-level qualification is essential for the service we’re providing but once we go past that there’s often only mandatory training for care workers, or progression into the clinical pathway,” she explained.

“We are really trying to clarify for those professional carers or people moving into the sector that you can have a really rewarding career as a professional carer. We will challenge you, reward you and we will develop you along the journey. That’s where we get attraction and retention. When we invest in our people, professional development isn’t significantly expensive at the carer level and you get that investment back tenfold. 

Ms Graham also touched on some of the major barriers preventing workers from entering the industry, particularly those coming from other sectors. She said there must be more training options available to people already in the workforce, plus those juggling caring or parental responsibilities. 

‘Earn and learn’ opportunities where staff are paid for training was one popular solution, especially if it would benefit unqualified workers who are interested in working in aged care.

“If you have applicants who want to work in the sector then let them come if they meet the values your organisation has. Find a way, find a training partner that’s going to enable you to do that. You can afford to collaborate because they’re not job shopping, they want to work here,” Ms Graham added.

International workers can be the perfect fit

There is some apprehension within the aged care sector that international workers aren’t the right solution for filling workforce gaps. Many providers do view them as short-to-medium term solutions, however, and they’re even investing into community integration to extend that potential impact.

Donna Dobson, Director of Aged and Disabilities, Gilgandra Shire Council, spoke highly about their investment into a group of Filipino aged care workers. She said the Council, who owns and operates their local aged care home, is bringing 16 aged care workers from the Philippines to the regional community, including six Registered Nurses who will spend 12 months training to enable the transfer of their skills.

The local community has embraced the new workers, having prepared for their arrival for months.

“We have sourced housing for them, supplied furniture and local businesses are even giving them vouchers in welcome packs.”

Care recipients have even enjoyed a number of activities based on Filipino culture to help them learn new phrases and cultural insights relevant to the arriving workers.

Experiences and engagement are essential

Another fan of the ‘earn and learn’ approach was panellist Leanne Braun, Managing Director, Gippsland Home and Community Care. Ms Braun works in a regional setting where community connections are of utmost importance. This includes keeping workers in the region and engaging with young and old to help them learn how to care for their community.

“Everything is driven in me to give back to my community. It is very spread out [my community] and we have a lot of youth and older people who want to work but don’t have the opportunity to. We want to give people an opportunity to feel valued,” Ms Braun said.

One of the most impactful ways to feel valued is through mentoring, as Ms Braun explained. She shed light on the impact of her mentor, Jodie, and explained just how important engaging mentorship is for career development – a fitting way to reconnect with the need to give aged care workers more career growth opportunities. 

“Jodie mentored me in a very generous way for nothing other than to watch me grow. We need more mentors from the ground up,” she said.

“Leadership comes with growth, mentorship and time and belief that has led to me sitting here. We need to be more generous with ourselves and help others get into leadership, it’s not that hard.”

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