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Embracing the positivity of young leaders

Young professionals seem to steer clear of aged care because of negative perceptions surrounding the industry. Samantha Bowen spoke to young leaders about their love for aged care and what the sector could do to create better workplaces for the next generation of workers.  

Young people have ideas, skills, and capacity to help aged care reduce fear (Source: Provided)
Young people have ideas, skills, and capacity to help aged care reduce fear (Source: Provided)

“We hear all the time, "Young people don't want to work in aged care". But is this true?

What we do know is that it is difficult to recruit and retain young professionals. Our workforce is ageing, and young people make up less than 30 percent of our care staff. What are we doing to support young people to see the potential and opportunities within our ranks?

Health Workforce Australia in 2012 estimated there would be a shortage of more than 100,000 nurses by 2025. Not only are we facing a scarcity of nurses according to this prediction, but we can also see that 75 percent of Australian employees report that their workplaces need better managers and leaders (http://newsroom.melbourne.edu/cwl-survey-results).

With many challenges continuing to pop up, now is the time to create better channels that listen to what our future workers love and hate about aged care. Understanding their perception will allow us all to create better workplaces and find the best leaders to support the care of our elders.

Recruiting, developing, and retaining the leaders of our future comes with many hurdles. So I went out and asked three emerging aged care leaders; what do they love, hate, and want to see changed about aged care?

I reached out to Carla Beheram, General Manager - Care & Wellbeing, SummitCare, Will Stubbs,entrepreneur and social change advocate at Old Mate, and Marissa Sandler, founder of CareSeekers.com.au.

When talking to these amazing young leaders, they all had more positive than negative experiences to share about our industry. They all offered a common theme of love and highlighted a desire to make a difference in the lives of others, especially people who could be our parents or grandparents.

Embracing challenges

The population of older adults requiring care is growing fast. As a society we know and embrace the idea that we must look after our elders. We must listen and support more change, and give it the economic backing aged care needs to succeed and innovate.

How do we go about creating change from the outside and opening the eyes of new talent to the opportunities that exist?

Will Stubbs believes the opportunity lies in supporting our elders to continue to contribute, helping them to fight back against this common perception that says “no, your time is done - go sit in a room and enjoy doing nothing”. Will's work in helping to reduce the rates of suicide in older men has revealed the importance of empowering our elders."It opened my eyes to the sector and the importance of aged care - something I wouldn’t have seen it until much later in life," he says.

Adaptation and Collaboration

We need to adapt quickly and collaborate better. “The aged care system needs traditional providers to collaborate with new innovative solutions so we can offer the best levels of care and services to the consumers,” says Marissa. Not only will that support better care, but it will also allow more innovative workforce solutions to evolve.

The negative messages are sticking, and we must do more to highlight and reward new ways of doing. Bringing in new people is urgently needed. Even those looking from our industry's periphery know there are challenges and issues. We must continue to invite young leaders to share their ideas and experiences if we are to avoid the workforce challenges of the future.

Support those with passion

"We go to work every day loving what we are doing. We make a difference in the lives of others. But it seems only bad news is shared, and the public holds onto this. It makes it more difficult to tell people why we love our jobs - they just don’t want to hear it," says Carla. This consistent negative messaging is absorbed and contributes to an atmosphere where graduates, clinical professionals, and those in our community avoid anything to do with aged care.

One opportunity care providers can undertake is to recruit for values. Carla believes you can teach people to do the technical skills, but if you cannot live our values or genuinely care for our clients, then there's no point being in our workplaces. Being able to take control of that is brilliant.

If we are to move forward and bring young people on this journey, progress must be made to bring emerging leaders into discussions of our industry's future. Our young people have ideas, skills, and capacity to help aged care reduce fear.  Now is the time to remove the negativity and embrace the positivity of our emerging leaders.”

Samantha Bowen

Samantha Bowen is the Founding Director of Acorn Network. Her focus is to inspire us all to get involved and see the opportunities within our aged care sector. She is a Federal Advisory Board Member for NNIDR, an international speaker, an advocate for young leaders in aged care, and firmly believes that now is the time to count the leaders around us to build a future we all want to grow old in.

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