Collaborative workforce development in aged care
The Tasmanian Workforce Innovation Network brings together employers, training providers and job service providers to explore opportunities for building capacity and capability of the aged care workforce.
The Tasmanian Workforce Innovation Network
Meetings are held four times a year with members from across Tasmania attending. Topical issues are covered, such as new government funding opportunities. Training organisations present programs they’re delivering and developing. Employers discuss their training and workforce needs and work together with RTOs to develop solutions. The Network also provides resources to help with recruitment and training.
Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) is a national peak body supporting not-for-profit, church and charitable providers of retirement living, community, home and residential care. Fiona Huskinson is their Senior Workforce & Industry Development Officer, and manages the Network’s programs and initiatives.
She says partnerships fostered through the Network have driven great outcomes for all involved. Employers understand the value of training and investing in it, and the quality of training continually improves. Fiona notes that allocating ACSA staff to manage the Network and its programs has been integral to its success.
Programs and initiatives
Chris Hyde, Director of Care at Emmerton Park, an aged care facility in north-west Tasmania, has been a member of the Network since 2011. A friend working at another facility found it valuable and recommended she join.
When she first attended, employers and RTOs were discussing the minimum requirements for care staff and what sort of education they needed. Service providers had the opportunity to articulate their needs, and from those discussions, programs were developed to recruit and upskill aged care workers.
She values learning from guest speakers, working collaboratively with RTOs and networking with other employers, so much that she drives five hours to attend meetings!
Establishing and monitoring programs
The Network develops programs to address workforce and training challenges, such as its school-based traineeship program. It invites RTOs to express their interest in delivering programs; asking how and where they deliver, how far they’re willing to travel and associated costs.
The Network follows a selection process to find the most suitable RTOs for different programs according to strengths, such as the calibre of the trainers delivering a particular qualification. It also monitors students’ progress and outcomes and supplements programs with a buddy and coaching program to train the trainer.
Fiona Huskinson explains:
“… it’s time intensive to start with. We monitor that the training’s happening, that they [the RTO] are going into the workplace, that they’re communicating with the employer, and then we follow up with the students to make sure that they’re getting the right training, it’s meeting their needs. For a young person, it’s their parents involved in that as well, and their schools and colleges… we make sure that if they’re doing a school-based traineeship, it’s not impacting on their timetable, that they’re taking subjects that are actually going to supplement and complement their career pathway, which is really important.”
The Network plays a key role in mediating and facilitating relationships between stakeholders. They organise ‘sign up days’ for all parties, where they explicitly communicate stakeholders’ roles and responsibilities.
The importance of strong relationships
Fiona acknowledges that while the Network helps to get things up and running and brings parties together, it’s still vital that RTOs establish a strong relationship with the employers.
From an employer perspective, Chris Hyde recognises the value of good communication to the relationship.
“Before training begins, we often have discussions with RTOs about how we’ll communicate and how often. I like to be able to discuss progress and any issues we’re having. For example, we’ve had students on placement who we’ve identified will need more time for their training and we’ve discussed and negotiated that with the RTO. I’ve learnt that we need to invest in that relationship and that we can’t rely on students to identify or let us know when they’re having issues.”
She says it’s important to form the relationship upfront, to get to know the RTO and make sure they know the organisation’s needs and priorities. Before engaging, they assess and clarify their own needs. For Emmerton Park, hands-on training is important so that students are adequately prepared for the workplace.
They formalise how they’ll work together, specifying things like how and when they’ll meet and how assessments will be done. Communication is ongoing so that students achieve the best possible outcomes.