Students set to benefit from aged care funding increase

With investment and innovation pouring into aged care, there’s never been a better time for students to consider a career in the industry.

Image: Ava Jarrett completed her Cert III in Health Services Assistance

Open your favourite news site these days and you’re likely to read something about the booming healthcare industry. Over the next five years, the industry is expected to generate more than 250,000 jobs. Why? The projected growth is being driven by Australia’s ageing population, (the older we get, the more healthcare services we need), our response to the pandemic, and some serious state and federal investment.

At the federal level, the government is injecting $115.5 billion into healthcare during 2020-21, an increase of $11.5 billion over the previous year. Aged care spending at $23.9 billion represents a significant proportion of that investment.

In New South Wales, the government committed $29 billion to healthcare in the 2020-21 budget, earmarking more than $66 million to enhance the capacity of community mental health workers, and more than $56 million for end of life and palliative care.

With this sort of money flowing into the industry, it’s not hard to see why healthcare will account for the lion’s share of new jobs set to be created over the next five years. But what does all this mean for NSW students, particularly those who might be considering one of the several vocational training options in the rapidly expanding sector?

According to Sunil Badami, the writer and academic who joined us on Episode 9 of EPPP TV to discuss job clusters, it means gainful employment for one thing.

“This is a great opportunity to get a job, and one you’ll keep for a very long time,” says Sunil.

It’s also a chance to be part of something exciting. While ‘aged care’ might not sound exciting (if it were up to Sunil, he’d rebrand the entire sector), a lot of work is being done in Europe and the US to reimagine the way we care for our senior citizens. Slowly, those innovations are beginning to trickle down to Australia.

“In Denmark and the Netherlands, they’ve created ‘dementia villages’ to allow people with the condition to live as independently as possible,” says Sunil. “Last year, one opened up here, in Tasmania.”

The $25 million Korongee village in Hobart has been designed from the ground up to assist people living with dementia, the second leading cause of death in Australia behind heart disease. Homes in the village, which accommodate households of eight like-minded residents, are painted different colours to aid orientation and feature clear ‘memory boxes’ into which residents place familiar items.

One of the other major shifts in aged care is the move towards community-based and intergenerational care.

“There’s some great stuff happening in aged care overseas,” says Sunil. “In Germany, they have community-based housing arrangements where personal carers, healthcare workers, and family and community members collaborate to provide care.”

Next door in the Netherlands, Dutch authorities have been leading the charge in creating intergenerational communities to provide opportunities for both the elderly and young people. Interestingly, a Sydney architecture practice is looking at introducing the model, which sees students live either rent-free or inexpensively in exchange for doing work around the aged care facility, in Australia. By all accounts, the model has been a runaway success, leading to improvements in quality of life for residents and workers. According to Sunil, it’s also a model that could work well here, particularly in the EPPP pilot areas.

“One of the big opportunities for aged care in Australia is creating culturally sensitive facilities,” says Sunil. “On the North Coast, that could mean facilities catering to indigenous communities, whereas in south-west Sydney you’d look at catering to people of Asian and Middle Eastern heritage.”
Image: Sunil Badami

While it might take time for some of these innovative ideas to be realised locally, one thing is clear – there’s never been a better time for students to explore career pathways in aged care. Not only is the industry going through a period of significant change, there are a host of training options for students and school leavers to choose from.

Many qualifications in Aged Care can be completed as part of a school-based traineeship which count towards students’ ATARs. For example, the nationally accredited Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing) provides students with a great foundation for a career as an aged care worker. There is also a Certificate III in Health Services Assistance, a school-based traineeship that both Ava and Sienna completed, who we met in Episode 7 of EPPP TV.

It’s also a Job Trainer eligible qualification, which means if recently graduated students meet the eligibility criteria they won’t pay any fees for the course.

Ultimately, however, this is about more than jobs. Healthcare, and aged care specifically, is currently undergoing a transformational shift. Today’s students have a chance to play a part in that change, contribute to the betterment of their local communities, and enjoy long and rewarding careers. All of which begs the question: Why wouldn’t you look at aged care as a potential career pathway.

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