“It’s a good start,” Wallace told NewstalkZB of the initiative, “It’s recognition by the Government of the challenges the sector faces [and] it is being supported by our rest home members, but it’s not enough to fill the gaping shortages we have with our caregivers.”
The Ministry of Social Development has partnered with Medcall, a recruitment and staffing company specialising in the healthcare sector, to train 160 MSD clients for aged care jobs in eight regions.
The initiative is an expansion of a pilot programme in Auckland which started in February. The pilot resulted in nearly 40 people finding work. This included some who had been on benefit for long periods and are now working and training towards a healthcare diploma.
Fuelled by growing demand from aged care providers, the initiative will be rolled out across the Canterbury, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Auckland, Wellington, Central, Southern, and Nelson regions.
Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni says it is a sensible solution.
“We have a rapidly ageing population and a shortage of workers in the aged care industry so it makes sense that we partner with companies like Medcall, to train New Zealanders for an industry that is growing fast and will continue to do so,” she says.
However, with population forecasts indicating that the number of New Zealanders over 85 will grow from 85,000 to 220,000 in 20 years’ time, the sector is going to need a longer term strategy.
Wallace has expressed concern that the Government is bringing in 900 overseas teachers to plug the teacher shortage, yet will not ease barriers for migrant workers wanting to work in the aged care sector.
The aged care sector is also facing a shortage, particularly in nursing staff.
The sector is very reliant on migrant workers, who comprise 30 per cent of the aged care workforce. Yet they are now facing difficulty working in New Zealand’s aged care sector because of restrictive immigration laws.
The Government is also moving very slowly on making much-needed changes to the ANZSCO skills classification system which is also limiting opportunities for migrants wishing to work in the aged care sector.
Meanwhile rest homes continue to struggle to recruit New Zealanders suited and willing to do the work available.