Ditching PowerPoint for falls prevention: Aged care training to provide more practical skills

Training for aged care work will be overhauled to allow students to specialise in both aged care and disability support for the first time.

SkillsIQ chief executive officer Yasmin King said the certificate qualifications were being overhauled to remove unrelated skills, including in PowerPoint, to allow students to specialise in aged care and disability support. The Federal Department of Education Skills and Education commissioned SkillsIQ the review of vocational education and training (VET) qualifications for the aged care sector.

“Previously you couldn’t do the certificate three and specialise in both aged care and in disability, you had to choose one or the other,” Ms King said.

Vocational training certificates for aged care are under review and being overhauled.Credit:Getty Images

Ms King said the national review would discard electives that had been “imported” from business and other courses to teach skills including PowerPoint. The new aged care and disability courses would provide a sharper focus on palliative care and a range of other health-related skills.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care identified deficiencies in skills training for aged care workers and recommended greater attention be given to training, including in falls prevention, palliative care, monitoring medication and wound care. SkillsIQ said the existing Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing) “was not adequately meeting the skills needs of workers and employers in the aged care sector, thereby jeopardising the quality of care”.

The proposal for a new Certificate III in Individual Support, Certificate IV in Ageing Support and Certificate IV in Disability will be referred to the Australian Industry and Skills Committee by July and require the endorsement of states and territories.

A TAFE NSW spokeswoman said it supported the review and is advocating for the new training package to cover skills including emerging technology, mental health, dementia, palliative care, nutrition and hydration, infection control.

After completion of the review TAFE NSW “will align the delivery of relevant aged care qualifications with the new training package to ensure we continue to provide the aged care sector with the skilled workforce it needs”.

Australian higher education consultant Claire Field supported the royal commission’s recommendations to review the delivery of Certificate III and IV aged care certificates to include more specific skills training , but said she was concerned there was “a limit to how much more can be squashed into the Certificate III bearing in mind it’s an entry-level qualification”.

“We need to fundamentally rethink the qualification,” she said.

“And until people are paid more for work in the sector then we’re relying on the VET sector to lift standards which in large part go to pay and conditions.”

Aged care expert, Professor Kathy Eagar, who is director of the Australian Health Services Research Institute (AHSRI) at the University of Wollongong, said recognition of prior learning and work experience was needed to attract a competent new workforce. This would encourage airline stewards for example, with their experience in hospitality and skills in first aid and customer service, to enter the profession.

“They need ongoing education built into it as well rather than just a course to get you in the door and then forget about you,” she said.

Professor Eagar said people who had left the sector also needed to be brought back and given refresher courses, adequate pay and conditions.

“It needs to have a career structure,” she said.

Brett Holmes, general secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, said while he agreed with the need to improve education and training for care workers, the increase in knowledge and skills should be supported with much better pay and conditions of employment, including mandated staffing ratios to enable workers to deliver safe, quality care.

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