While potential solutions to the workforce shortage issues across the aged care sector are still being discussed, one Auckland-based rest home has started trialing a potential solution.

Elizabeth Knox Home and Hospital in Epsom are opening their doors to young people through work placements, introducing how a career in aged care can be valuable and rewarding.

“I think with changes to the immigration laws, we have to really look closely at how we’re encouraging people into our sector.  Then you marry this up with the high numbers of youth unemployment. I think that if you believe aged care needs good caring people, you only have to look at youth and say, ‘well they’re amazing and have a lot of potential’. They just need to be shown the opportunity,” says Stacey Mowbray, Community Partnerships lead at Elizabeth Knox.

“To make a home like ours run, there are so many people working here with amazing knowledge and experience that can be shared with young people. I think that as employers, we need to see it as our responsibility to build up these young people and highlight the opportunities,” Mowbray adds.

The charity run rest home has been actively supporting the Gateway programme where high school students are given the opportunity to complete papers to gain NCEA credits through work placements. Elizabeth Knox is working with industry training organisation, Careerforce, to improve their current structure so that they are able to accept more placements, and ensure that students get a positive experience, while not compromising on the quality of service provided or the safety of residents.

“What we want to do is to develop a programme that we can roll out to greater Gateway participants. It will be supported by robust orientation and training so students understand how we work and not feel like they’re being thrown in the deep end.”

“We wanted them to get a bigger picture of what aged care is all about, and the different careers on offer. We are thinking of having them buddy a staff member who’ll serve as their mentor, so they’re able to shadow this staff member and learn about their job.”

Mowbray said that their existing staff benefit from this programme as well. “The response from staff has been very positive. You can see them growing in confidence as they share their knowledge and experience, having conversations about their career pathway and how they got into their current role.”

“It makes you step up when you’re supporting someone. It lifts you as a leader and mentor.”

Photo supplied by Elizabeth Knox Rest Home

For young people, Mowbray thinks that apart from getting career ideas, the gateway students gain more confidence through actual work experience. “I think one of the greatest things they can get out of this is that confidence and self-belief in their ability to be part of a team and to contribute positively to a work environment.”

Mowbray attests to the positive effect that having young people in their rest home has brought. “They bring a lot of energy, positivity and enthusiasm. Our residents appreciate having them here.”

Mowbray admits that there is a lot of work involved, but believes that having the programme set up well to align with how the business works, will make it easier in the long run. She encourages other employers to support the Gateway programme and give accepting students for work placements a go.

“I think we can’t be short sighted. We have to look at the long term, and the impact of not engaging with these young people. We will not have the staff in the future unless we can get locally educated young people to consider entering careers across the aged care sector.”

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