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The value of youth in an Ageing industry

Not long ago twenty-four-year-old Beth Sturgis let loose on Facebook. Not an unusual act to witness on the world wide social network. What was unusual about this ‘rant’, was young Beth, a UK care worker, wasn’t complaining her boss didn’t approve her holidays, or that a customer grumbled about their latte being too cold, Beth was passionately defending her work in aged care.

The average age of a care worker in Australia is 46. There is no doubt this demographic are great carers, and mostly, by 46 years of age, have enough life experience and empathy to be really great carers. Even recruits entering the sector for the first time in this age bracket are undoubtedly going to be valuable employees, and hopefully mentors.

Still, there is a precious need for more young workers in this space ––for the industry and for the younger generation.

Beth’s expression was mature but unbridled. And she was accurate in her depiction of her role and why it needs to be understood and respected more. Beth had had enough, grown weary of negative comments around what she does for a living.

“I’m not just a glorified bum-wiper”, she said.

We know that. But do Beth’s peers?

Most of the older, more experienced care workers get it and feel the same as Beth. But do they have the fervor, or energy, or interest in screaming it out in public? Maybe, but for fear of stereotyping, we’re probably not going to see their unbridled passion on social media.

Beth’s statement went viral. It attracted all sorts of fresh eyes toward the integrity of care work. And also on issues like difficult hours and low pay scale ––but that’s another thing altogether. The point that jumps out to us in this example is youth and their passion and connectivity has the power to keep tired industries progressing.

Aged Care in Australia is under threat of serious staff-shortages as the swollen ageing population swarm care centres in the next couple of decades. And our average aged workers, the 46 year olds, in the next couple of decades, if not sooner, will be retired. It’s imperative we have a youthful injection to sustain the industry, for pragmatic reasons. But there are plenty of other reasons we can benefit from younger recruits.

Programs are being developed to attract and maintain younger workers into the sector. One such development by The Prince’s Trust in the UK, which has recently been piloted in Australia, is the ‘Get Into’ program. Following it’s overwhelming success in the UK where it has supported more than 35,000 young people over the past 10 years, the ‘Get Into’ program partnered with local organisation SYC to kick off in Adelaide in 2017.

Director of Corporate Strategy for SYC Michael Clark, described the program as,
“…A great way to give young people real exposure to work in the sector and also challenge their misconceptions about what a career in aged care entails.”
Just like young Beth, Michael says after completing the program, participants now understand the varied and highly rewarding work offered up in the aged care sector, and as a result, many are pursuing a career in the industry.
In a similar endeavor, BlueCross Sapphire Care recently formed a partnership with Jobs Victoria. Teaming up with Whitelion and the Emprevo digital employment service they developed a program that enables jobseekers pathways to genuine training towards careers in aged care.

In a short promo on the Jobs Victoria website we meet Kali, who was trained by the program and is now working as a barista in a BlueCross Sapphire aged care facility. Young Kali sees her career path as a rewarding one, just like Beth. She smiles describing why her role at the facility is an important one for her and the residents.

“The fact that I can make their day just remembering the smallest little things, or making them smile because they don’t feel like they’re in an aged care facility, they actually feel like they’re in the outside world.”

Young Kali might be the next Beth when she grows tired of peers not respecting what she is most passionate about –caring. The more Beth and Kali are repping the industry, the more the industry is going to open itself up to youth and vice versa.

Beth touched many nerves when she said,

“Today I was a cleaner, a cook, a hand to hold, a friendly face, a washer, a dresser, a helper, a CARER; today I was human.”

And after sadly admitting she’d make more money stacking shelves in a local supermarket Beth responds,

‘Would I go stack shelves? No. Because nothing beats the smile I put on someone’s face.’

We need to nurture and encourage the Kali and Beths of our sector; their youthful energies are necessary. And with the correct support from their colleagues, these examples of the industry’s organic ambassadors will become vital for growth in the future.

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