The aged care industry needs new blood. An estimated 60 per cent of the existing workforce will reach retirement age over the next 15 years and recent research from HESTA has revealed the sector is facing a potential shortfall of 80,000 workers over the next five years.
In response to the growing need to attract young adults to the industry, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) has launched the NEXT GEN initiative.
Chief executive Sean Rooney says there is a need to improve the perception of aged care as a career option for people under age 35.
The peak hopes its new initiative will promote the changing face of aged care and profile the industry as dynamic, innovative and potentially life-changing.
Rooney says: “There are many excellent career opportunities working in either age services directly or in the professions and trades that service our industry, where people can be challenged and rewarded, all while making a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
“As new models of aged care emerge, this requires a broader range of expertise and skills – including experts in data science, artificial intelligence, technology, architecture and design, hospitality, engineering, property development, human resources management – as well as the more traditional professions of legal, clinical and allied health, finance and accounting, board and governance, leadership and executive management.”
The NEXT GEN program is about attracting and developing the next generation of age services leaders, Rooney says. “This will be achieved by engaging and showcasing young leaders in our industry and designing and delivering programs to actively support their professional development and career progression.”
The young professionals were put forward due to their ambition, creativity and vision that challenges many of the mindsets and models associated with the current approach to care.
Aged Care Insite speaks with four of the young leaders to hear their take on working in the aged care industry.
Kelly Gray: An appetite for innovation
Venturing into the aged care sector has offered Kelly Gray an opportunity she had always hoped for: to start her own business.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” she says. “Working in the aged care sector has given me the opportunity to identify a gap in the market and develop a product to help people in their search for care services.”
Gray says the fact her website, My Care My Choice, is being embraced within the sector shows its appetite for innovation.
“Aged care providers have been very positive about the site as they know it is the way people want to receive information about aged care services. My Care My Choice helps people find a provider and highlights the fantastic work providers do, which can be life-changing for our most vulnerable people.”
Gray would like to see mainstream media pay more attention to positive stories of ageing and the providers who help facilitate it.
“This would also have flow-on effects for how we see the process of ageing within ourselves and may hopefully improve the treatment of older people across our society as a whole.
“Like the rest of us, older people have so much to contribute to our society and I would love to see this encouraged and celebrated.”
She also hopes that the view of aged care expands to better reflect reality. “When people think of aged care they think of a ‘nursing home’. But it’s so much more than that. There are literally thousands of different careers you could have in the sector, whether it’s directly working with our elders or helping them indirectly by providing other products and services.”
Paul Forrest: Pathways to leadership
Paul Forrest, state manager of WA physiotherapy and occupational therapy service provider Xtra AgedCare and Xtra HomeCare, agreed that the industry is constantly looking for fresh and new ideas to enhance quality of care.
Forrest says the uptick in next generation aged care leaders is resulting in a dynamic workforce not restrained by previous practices or ideas of how care should be delivered.
“I feel that the industry can often be interpreted as a cold and structured environment with no room for innovation,” Forrest says. “We should be promoting the variety of roles within aged care and the need for positive attitudes to enhance the lives of the residents.”
He adds that working in this space has helped him to find constant pathways for development in leadership roles. Forrest is responsible for business development and the group’s team of therapists but also completes hands-on physiotherapy, allowing him to remain in close contact with the needs of residents.
He says: “My role within the aged care and community setting has enabled me to connect with such a large variety of amazing people that I would never have met without this role.
“I feel very fortunate to learn from people who have experienced amazing journeys and great hardships throughout their lifetime and are willing to pass on their lessons.”
Teelia Peploe: Aged care can be anything
Teelia Peploe wears many hats. Some days spent running her small business, St Louis Estate Home Care, are spent focused on quality and audits, some on HR and hiring new staff or strategy and business development. Others involve filling in for carers or nurses.
“Wherever the day takes me, I try to keep up as much direct contact with clients and their families as possible,” Peploe says. “It sharpens my focus on what’s important to them and where we can improve.”
She says one of the most exciting challenges is considering how to best cater to the next wave of people accessing aged care services. “Aged care is… potentially anything the client wants it to be. For us, that’s where the innovation is. It gets us thinking about how we can create an experience and not simply meet a need.”
One thing she hopes the public comes to know about aged care is that people love the work they do.
“Whenever we conduct staff surveys one thing is always 100 per cent clear and that is job satisfaction,” Peploe explains. “Fundamentally, most people working in aged care find their roles very rewarding. It’s not hard to see why.”
Samantha Bowen: Part of the solution
As founder and managing director of the Acorn Network, Samantha Bowen not only leads by example as a young leader but supports others to “step up and shine” in aged care.
Bowen’s organisation aims to connect with organisations, leaders and entrepreneurs to highlight the opportunities within aged care and inspire each other.
Every industry intersects with aged care, Bowen says, from journalism and architecture to retail, healthcare and more. “It is important to embrace this opportunity to educate ourselves on how we can change the industry to be more inclusive, innovative, and sustainable for ourselves and our older loved ones.”
She added it’s crucial that next-generation leaders are supported and inspired to be part of future conversations about Australia’s ageing population.
“Our industry is rapidly changing and ensuring young people are part of these discussions is vital if we are to ensure we all are part of this ageing journey.”
Laura Sutherland: Pushing boundaries
For Laura Sutherland, one of the best parts of running her own recruitment consultancy – focussing on leadership and specialist positions in aged care and community services – is helping emerging leaders break into their first management role and progress with the same company.
“That’s the stuff that gets me excited,” Sutherland says. “I can see how an individual is going to add value to their employer and also feel fulfilled in their own journey.”
The director of 3D Recruit said emerging generations bring a fresh injection of ideas and a creative energy to push boundaries in a healthy way.
“As Henry Ford said, ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’. We can’t afford to stay the same. We need to break free from the restrictive mindset of ‘we’ve always done it this way’ and we need to explore new possibilities, workforce structures and career pathways that better align with new emerging models of care.”
This, coupled with the fact the majority of existing leaders in the sector will retire, is great news for aspiring young leaders who are hungry for opportunities, variety and to work in an industry that has a strong sense of purpose, Sutherland says.
“It’s fair to say that the aged care industry as a career choice is not perceived as a sexy or glam. It’s true. It’s more real than that. Who wants sexy and glam when instead you can make a very real impact and make a very real difference?
“Also, with so much work to do in our ever-evolving industry, it provides plentiful opportunities for career progression and unique leadership opportunities.”
The first event on the NEXT GEN calendar will be a forum in Perth on 15 May.Do you have an idea for a story?
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