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The right skill set

The highly variable quality of Certificate III training across the country has emerged as an unlikely recurring theme in the Productivity Commission’s ongoing public hearings.

At various hearings in Melbourne, Hobart, Brisbane and Sydney, providers, unions and academics have raised serious concerns about the training provided to personal care workers, who increasingly provide the majority of care in residential facilities.

Andrew Robinson, professor of aged care nursing at the University of Tasmania, said there structural and conceptual problems with the training.

“For one, we locate it in the VET sector, so that it’s really difficult to have a research-informed education in that sector, because it doesn’t engage with research…So you really need to build a much stronger evidence base so that we can have students being taught what they need to be taught.”

He said he recently heard someone from an RTO talk about “their fantastic program”, but they did not mention palliation, “and this is an area where 50 per cent of residents will die every 12 months in a lot of places; how couldn’t palliation be a core construct”.

Similarly, Deborah Parker, director of the University of Blue Care/Blue Care Research and Practice Development Centre, cited the failure of many Cert III courses to keep up with changes occurring in the sector.

“My area of expertise is palliative care and there are some components in some of those Cert III and Cert IV areas, but they’re fairly basic. But that’s core business for residential care…If we’re going to be moving into the more independent support or restorative care, as well as badging ourselves as palliative care, we need to ensure that those qualifications keep pace with that.”
Paul Gilbert of the ANF Victoria said there could be no certainty that two people with Certificate IIIs would have the same skill set. He said there was no one “properly accrediting the people who deliver those courses”.

“You don’t get that quality in the Certificate III, and it’s unfair on the people who pay for it, and it’s unfair on the people who rely on care, as the majority of people providing care in private aged care clearly either have the Certificate III or potentially nothing at all,” he said.

Kerri Anderson of United Voice (formerly LHMU), when questioned by commissioner Mike Woods on the issue, said there was “definite room for improvement…the quality could stand to be quite considerably higher”.

Her union colleague, Mick De Brenni, said there was a plethora of registered training organisations “that are predominantly at the low end of the quality of content scale and it would be fair to say that the provision of that training around that qualification is somewhat out of control.”

Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald said the PC had heard, universally, concerns about the quality of the training of the workforce. “We’ve mentioned it in the draft and we intend to ramp that up in the final,” he said.

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