December 2013 issue

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Elderly care in Australia

In response to a shortage of trained aged-care workers in Australia, institutions have developed offerings providing hands-on learning opportunities and good job prospects to international students. Claire Twyman reports.

With Australia’s ageing population, demand is high for aged-care workers in the country. Education providers have responded by offering Tafe (technical and further education) courses, often at Certificate III or Certificate IV level, that leave internationals well equipped to deal with the demands of the workplace.

“Most of our students, after completing their practical placement, get offered a job, and most accept it,” highlights Renata Szkuta from Cambridge International College (CIC) in Melbourne, VIC. She explains that these students are offered part-time work (up to 20 hours per week on a student visa) while enrolled on the course. “It’s a win-win situation for both the student and the employer. Our aged-care courses are very popular with the international audience as the chance of steady work is very promising, and the wages paid are still very generous in comparison with their own country.”

CIC offers Aged Care at Certificate III and IV, Szkuta continues. Aged Care Certificate IIIs qualify graduates to work in the sector, while the Certificate IV was introduced at the college due to interest from students wanting to continue their studies. With units of the Certificate III preparing students to “provide support to people living with dementia” and “work effectively with culturally diverse clients and co-workers”, she adds, “The college has a simulated training lab which replicates a residential care facility room, equipped with all the essential equipment including a life-like manikin named George. This is a great addition to our facility, as students will be well prepared by practising in a stimulated environment before venturing out to work with real clients.”

Aged-care courses at CIC see interest from countries including Brazil, China and Sri Lanka, says Szkuta, although the majority are nursing graduates from the Philippines. “Upon completion of [their course], these students use these qualifications as a pathway to further health studies in Australia.” Melissa Lo from Tafe Queensland (QLD) International – the QLD network of Tafe institutes – meanwhile, says that students, often from India and Nepal as well as the Philippines, take the Certificate III course to gain a reputable qualification they can use when returning to their home country.

“Tafe Queensland institutes are responsive to industry needs and market trends,” says Lo, explaining that institutions offering the Certificate III include Wide Bay Institute of Tafe and Sunshine Coast Institute of Tafe. Benefits of the courses include increased flexibility and pathways to up-skill or gain dual qualifications to increase employment prospects. “The Certificate III is designed to introduce knowledge, skills and values that promote quality care,” she adds. “Students can practise hands-on skills using modern equipment including electric beds, lifting hoists, walking aids and showering equipment.” An interesting option that has also been introduced in Queensland to allow people to live at home rather than in residential care, she says, is the Certificate III in Home and Community Care.

Students wishing to take a Certificate III in aged care in Australia need an Ielts score of 5.5 or equivalent with all individual bands higher than 5, and must also meet the academic requirements of the Australian secondary school year 12 or equivalent. To assist with this, Jarrod Ferguson from Education and Training International – a government unit responsible for the enrolment of overseas students at Tafe institutions in Western Australia – says, “Each Tafe institute in Western Australia has an international centre dedicated to the personal and academic needs and well-being of international students. Staff offer friendly, specialised support and guidance from initial contact through to graduation.” With courses in Western Australia evolving to keep up with best practice policies in this field, practical skills gained include providing personal care, using specialist communication skills and implementing health and safety practices, he says.

The Northern Melbourne Institute of Tafe (NMIT), VIC, offers an intensive 13-week Certificate III in Aged Care with four weeks devoted to a placement, says Damian Stawiszynski. “There are very strong industry links through our placement programme; this ensures that our training reflects current workplace expectations/needs.” The additional language and literacy support is also an advantage, he says, with students able to take an Elicos programme prior to embarking on the aged-care course. “NMIT has incorporated a greater focus on individualised planning, dementia and areas such as mental health and alcohol/drug use,” he explains. “The on-going focus is on a positive, social model of ageing rather than a deficit/medicalised model.” claire@hothousemedia.com

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