Building a sustainable, capable and skilled workforce, to support the aged care industry boom

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Australia’s aged care workforce is expected to grow to nearly 830,000 by 2050.  But while it’s a growing industry, it’s facing several challenges, including an ageing workforce, the increased demand for residential care placements, flexible delivery of these services, ensuring high levels of care, and the expansion of consumer directed care (CDC).


A major expansion of its workforce is needed, at a time when the labour market is getting tighter.  Significantly, the time to achieve that skilled and sustainable aged care workforce is now.

Improving high turnover rates & ageing profile

The National Aged Care Alliance has developed a new and improved version of the Productivity Commission’s Caring for Older Australians Report (2011).  It details the specific needs of the stakeholders.

It concluded the future requirements of the aged care system will require:

  • An expanded workforce
  • Providers to be more competitive and services to be more consumer focused in delivering support, so job design and planning (rostering etc.) allows staff to be more responsive and flexible in meeting individual needs
  • New specialist and short term services, including palliative care, wellness services, respite care, sub-acute care, and rehabilitation.

Fair and competitive wages, improved employment conditions, better designed jobs, access to ongoing training and workforce development.  These are all critical suggestions – to improve the high turnover rates and ageing profile.

Hudson’s The Ageing Population: Implications for the Australian Workforce, outlines how baby boomers will take irreplaceable levels of experience with them, as they retire.  And, with Australia’s current fertility rate of 1.2%, which is already below replacement, a workforce shortage is coming (with the quality dropping too).

The looming skills shortage has encouraged new population trends, including new modes of work (organisations moving away from generic workforce approaches, towards individual tailoring), flexible learning, attracting & retaining older workers, work-life balance, all highlighted in the report.

And, progress is being made.

A multidisciplinary team has formed at Flinders University to explore these issues.  Addressing the Australian Government’s Strategic Research Priority of ‘promoting population health and wellbeing’, the study will provide the first in-depth exploration to date of supply-side issues in the aged care workforce in Australia.

This project aims to provide new evidence on how to attract, retain and up-skill workers, as the aged care sector strives to achieve a sustainable and capable workforce, fit for the future needs of older Australians.

Change is happening at the ground level too.

Programs like the mhWSE Older Person’s Mental Health Awareness workshop, where, in one day, participants learn to better understand how to support older people’s mental health and understand mental illness.  The course was created after research emerged that older people in the community, and aged care, are at risk of mental health decline.

Developing your aged care workforce

There are things you can do to achieve a skilled and sustainable aged care workforce – follow these 8 tips:

  1. Suit your staff (regardless of age) to tasks accordingly ensuring they’re confident and capable
  2. Be flexible to older worker’s needs and abilities
  3. Blend repetitive and physical tasks
  4. Pay attention to the design of work stations and equipment
  5. Teach all workers how to prevent injuries and identify risks
  6. Identify the capabilities required for all job roles now and into the future
  7. Be open to flexible work arrangements
  8. Communicate openly with workers – they should feel comfortable in discussing any potential issues.

A high quality workforce comes from a planned approach, understanding where aged care services meet the needs of the community, and implementing workforce development strategies to meet future workforce requirements.

If you would like to know more about workforce planning and development strategies for your organisation, please contact Wendy Perry via

July 2016

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