It’s become a problem in the aged care industry that many newly hired staff lack the basic skills that are required of their job. Personal care workers make up more than 60 per cent of the aged care workforce. Though many are excellent staff who are good at their jobs, some workers have been found to speak limited English and cannot read medication charts. Others don’t have the training in feeding and bathing.

An Employment Department survey found that one in eight aged care employers said that training graduates had “insufficient experience, inadequate communication or teamwork skills’’.

The problem seems to lie in the short courses that are being offered. Some workers are getting their Certificate III in a mere 6 weeks.

In late November, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) revealed that one in four aged care trainers has failed audits in the past three years.

Some of the short courses have student attendance as optional except for one mandatory first aid course, and instead have the trainers give students workbooks to complete.

These courses lack in practical training.

ASQA also found that 21 training colleges had their registration revoked or suspended over the past three years.

It is clear that the improvement of the quality of staff begins with the training facilities – if there are better courses with stricter standards and more practical coursework, there will be better graduates.

To combat that large amount of low quality graduates, The Salvation Army is now considering “cultural intelligence’’ training for its aged care staff. Part of this training is to teach them about “emotional intelligence, social inclusion and boundaries’’ when working in aged care.

There is currently no regulatory body for personal carers. Nurses, in contrast, have the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

Nurses are obligated to meet a minimum of 20 hours of continuing professional development. Registered nurses are required to complete a three-year bachelor degree at university and enrolled nurses complete an 18-month diploma – a stark difference to the minimum training requirements of a personal care worker.

In the past few years there has been a high demand for aged care staff, which is why so many poorly trained graduates have been able to secure a job. And with funding being an issue, they are often the most feasible option.

A facility manager told Aged Care Report Card that part of the challenge they face is that “despite the large pool of graduates, often we find when they come to work for us they don’t have the prior skill and training that we would expect.”

“If we don’t employ them, often the only other option is using costly agency staff. So instead they are forced hire the under qualified staff in the hope that they can be trained to be better”.

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