The delivery of safe, quality aged care to Australia’s ageing population is contingent on a comprehensive national workforce strategy.
Aged care staffing is currently in the national spotlight. A Federal Government Aged Care Workforce Taskforce is expected to hand down its report to the Federal Aged Care Minister in late June 2018. And a national Aged Care Workforce Forum will be held in Melbourne from 26-28 June 2018.
On the eve of the workforce forum, one of Australia’s leading provider of workforce deployment software, Allocate, spoke to aged care providers about their biggest workforce challenges and issues.
Attracting skilled employees to remote areas
Many aged care providers highlighted difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff in remote areas, particularly when it comes to registered and enrolled nurses.
Desiree Doherty from Nazareth Care Australasia agreed it is challenging to recruit experienced staff into facilities in rural and remote areas. Nazareth Care operate an aged care home in Geraldton in Western Australia, which is always difficult to recruit staff for. Although we have been fortunate to attract experienced, qualified staff, it does take longer that it would in other locations.
However, its other facilities located in less remote areas didn’t tend to experience the same issues, which she attributed to her organisation’s workforce planning initiatives.
“We recently had 10 students join our workforce, which we are training and supporting for a 12 month period. We believe we are in a good position to offer continuous learning online which is beneficial to staff” she said.
Education is key to the future of aged care
According to a recent Australian survey, aged care staff are actively seeking ongoing education and training.
The Transforming Aged Care Report commissioned by HESTA found that as many as 80,000 people currently working in the sector may leave in the next five years.
And almost 50% of these people cited their reason for leaving as a desire to develop new skills.
As a result, education and training has become an important way to help retain and develop staff within the aged care sector.
The Chair of the Aged Care Workforce Taskforce, Professor John Pollaers, has reinforced the importance of education within the sector.
“We need to build trust in our aged care workforce by improving education and training. We also need a shift in attitude, with the industry taking the lead and showing the community what good care looks like,” he said.
Concerns about pay and remuneration
Pay and remuneration is also cited in the HESTA report as an area of continuing concern resulting in aged care staff turnover. More than 20% of those thinking of leaving the sector in the next five years were unhappy with what they were earning.
This is a concern for Fiona Millar from Swancare, based in Western Australia
“In our local market, mining jobs are increasing. And we just can’t compete with the wages they can offer,” she told Allocate
For some workers, incorrect payment also causes frustration, contributing to people leaving the sector. This is why having electronic rostering systems with automated award interpretation of the rostered hours integrated with the payroll system can help.
Ageing workforce a critical issue
The ageing of the workforce is also a key concern across the industry. According to the HESTA report, more than half of Australia’s aged care workforce is aged over 50 years.
“We’ve been looking at the ageing of our workforce for a while,” Swancare’s Ms Millar told Allocate.
While it’s important to have a strategy in recruitment and not replace people retiring with others approaching retiring age, she highlighted that workforce balance was also important.
“You need older, more experienced people combined with younger people who are in an earlier stage in their careers,” she said. “I know that almost 80% of our workforce is under the age of 54. We keep a close watch on these numbers,” she said.
Allocate Software will be hosting a workshop on the future of the aged care workforce – and discussing these and many other workforce planning issues.