It is an industry crying out for employees to fill growing demand, but Australians must first change the way they think about it, an aged care educator says.
- The aged care sector will need 1 million extra workers by 2050, which is a quadrupling of the current workforce
- Low pay has been one of the major challenges to attracting people to work in aged care
- Aged care educator Tracey Newcombe said people need to stop thinking about ageing as a period of decline and disability
The aged care sector is in the midst of a skills shortage and a damning royal commission showing weak regulation and poor wages, but attracting the workforce in the first place remains a major challenge.
“It’s a lot more than assisting old people to have a shower or get dressed,” said TAFE NSW aged care teacher Tracey Newcombe.
“The fact you can make such a difference to people is what most of us find the most rewarding thing.”
While the Federal Government has pledged to spend half a billion dollars on measures to overhaul parts of the aged care sector after the royal commission, frontline workers are trying to encourage people to consider a career in aged care.
Finding his calling with aged care
Italian immigrant Antonio Malevitsis worked as a full-time carer for the late Peter Nicholas, a customer at a cafe he worked at in Nowra on the New South Wales south coast.
He said the 98-year-old helped him find his calling in life.
“Peter has guided me in a way — I cooked for 13 years and this [looking after Peter] was my first experience in ageing and I really like it,” Mr Malevitsis said.
“Younger generations don’t understand the rewards for spending time with the elderly.”
Mr Malevitsis completed a Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing) at TAFE NSW and said his new career path meant he would not struggle to find work.
He said it is one of the big selling points to try and address the skills shortage.
“It makes me proud and secure because there is such high demand [for aged care workers],” Mr Malevitsis said.
“I think I chose the right thing to do.”
Ms Newcombe said many of her students are offered work before finishing their studies.
“The employment prospects are excellent because we need to quadruple the amount of aged care workers to meet the growing demand,” she said.
How the demand for aged care will look by 2050
According to a Productivity Commission report into Caring for Older Australians, the country’s ageing population means more than 3.5 million Australians will use aged care services by 2050.
Aged care will eventually be a major issue for a significant number of Australian voters, and the industry will need about a million workers.
Teacher Ms Newcombe said one way to attract people to the industry is to try and change the way they think about ageing.
“There are some issues that put people off, such as the staffing problems we have and it hasn’t up until now been paid as well as it should be, but that’s changing,” she said.
“It’s an attractive career and the employment is steady and you work with so many interesting people and learn so much from the people you look after.”