Planning for a healthy future
29 May 2009
More than 100 health and community services industry representatives gathered in Melbourne yesterday to discuss skills shortages and identify workforce strategies which will help prepare their sector for the future.
Hosted by the Health and Community Services Careers Program - a Victorian Government initiative delivered by Kangan Batman TAFE - and the Department of Human Services, the Skills Shortages in Health and Community Services business breakfast featured keynote addresses by Kim Sykes, Director of Service and Workforce Planning, Department of Human Services, and Doreen Power, CEO of Seymour Health.
Acknowledging the various skills shortage challenges which affect the industry, Ms Sykes said a shift in the culture of recruitment and staff retention would be essential in the coming years.
"We're currently dealing with a workforce where we have four generations working side by side - from pre-baby boomers and baby boomers to generation X and generation Y - and they all have different career expectations," she said.
"In attracting new members to our workforce, we need to acknowledge these expectations and needs, and develop strategies to also retain our skilled people.
"We need to be open to change in the sector, and look at alternatives to our current approaches to staffing, look at the skills and knowledge required for the job and address them through a variety of training options. This will give us a better capacity to grow."
The business event was also an opportunity for guests to hear about a regional Victorian success story.
By implementing various recruitment, training and staff retention strategies, Seymour Health is increasing its future capacity to deliver health services which reflect the needs of the community.
CEO Doreen Power said the organisation has experienced a culture shift in the past two years which stand it in good stead to deal with the challenges which lie ahead.
"When I started in August 2007, the average age of our workforce was 47, staff members were mostly females, and the majority were long-term employees," she said.
"This picture is typical of the rural health industry, where succession planning, organisational development and recruitment strategies haven't largely been considered until now."
Over the past 18 months, Doreen has lead the implementation of a "paradigm shift" in the hospital's culture, establishing a new way of thinking with a focus on work experience and providing opportunities for new health workers to enter the industry.
"It's about changing the culture of the industry, and I can see it working throughout our organisation. We place a high priority on school visits, careers expos - it's about actively promoting a career in health," Ms Power said.
"In 2007, we had less than 30 students through the organisation. In 2008 that number rose to 120, and already this year we've had 50 - this approach is making a significant difference."
The Health and Community Services Careers Program will continue to encourage dialogue on skills shortage issues in the coming months by linking with Local Community Partnerships, employers, training organisations and secondary schools to promote the industry as a career pathway of choice.