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Aged-care skills and digital literacy important in future workforce: report

Digital technology will continue to transform aged care into the future, from the way workers are trained to the types of career paths they might follow, a new report has found.

The CSIRO report Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce said the aged-care sector would be one of the largest employers into the future, and added workers will need to be digitally literate, due to an explosion in new technologies.

Throughout Australia, most workers will need some hybrid of technical, business, creative and interpersonal skills, the report stated.

Dr Andrew Reeson, CSIRO economist, said while health and aged-care expenditure has been growing rapidly in recent years, it cannot continue at the same rate.

“There is clearly a need for greater productivity to kick in at some point,” Reeson said. “There will be many exciting pieces of technology that will help that happen. That said, what we also see is that the people skills, the interpersonal skills, the caring skills – they’re actually the ones that are increasingly in demand.”

Through to 2035, the CSIRO stated, there will be an explosion in device connectivity and rapid advances in automated systems and artificial intelligence. As a result, even professionals in traditionally labour-intense occupations such as aged care will probably need to work with computers and operate complex machines.

John Engeler, group manager of accommodation and services at Australian aged-care provider SummitCare said: “Technology in the future will answer the question, ‘How quickly can you respond to the care needs of my loved one?'”

Work recently started on SummitCare’s new Baulkham Hills residential aged-care centre and the provider said technology will play a key role in both the lifestyle and care of residents. The site will feature wireless connectivity, sensors, alarm call and fall-prevention systems, CCTV security and video conferencing.

Engeler said the new development represents a move from IT being a passive and incidental area to being fully operational.

He added: “It allows the care staff to be able to ensure that care is provided beyond that which would normally be limited by [staff numbers].”

Reeson said technology can help and take out many of the more routine aspects of care staff’s work and leave them to focus on the services that “add more value, the interpersonal services, really caring for people.”

The report also stated that technology-enabled jobs may allow workers to cross industry boundaries with greater ease, such as low-skilled males working in manufacturing industries moving into caring professions experiencing workforce growth.

“In Australia, we’ve seen a steady decline in manufacturing and that’s likely to continue. It still remains a very large employer, it’s still very important to the economy, and it’s likely to continue to be so, but we’re certainly seeing a steady trickle of people essentially being displaced from this industry as factories, whether large or small, close down,” Reeson said. “Aged care is probably the single fastest-growing occupation in Australia in recent years and again that’s likely to continue, so there are big opportunities there, particularly because aged care is so distributed around the country.”

He added that while there may be challenges for some individuals to make that transition, as the skill sets are different and attitudes may require a shift, it’s important that workers fully consider the opportunities in caring professions.

“In the future, there will be fewer and fewer of those jobs and more and more jobs that involve caring for people,” he said.

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