INsite: In a nutshell, what is Aged Care Channel and how does it work?

Julie Sparks: Aged Care Channel is an online education provider that delivers courses specifically for staff who work in aged care. We partner with aged care organisations to help meet their educational requirements.

The courses are engaging because they are videos that tell the stories of real people and real situations.

Our courses cover almost every aspect of aged care education, from ARRC contract requirements to food safety regulations, Health and Safety courses, RN & EN professional development, even courses for Managers to meet their education audit requirements. We have over 50 courses that cover education at all levels over all roles.

INsite: How did you come to be involved in setting up the New Zealand branch?

JS: I first heard of the Aged Care Channel when I was managing Health Ed Trust (another aged care education provider).

Last year while I was managing Wendover Rest Home in Christchurch, the CEO of Aged Care Channel rang me and said they were keen to offer their services in NZ and would I be interested in running the NZ operation? I knew the Aged Care Channel resources were excellent and with Health Ed Trust no longer operating I thought it would be a great option for me and a great opportunity to provide a new education option for the sector.

INsite: What inspired you about Aged Care Channel to take on the role?

JS: There were several things. Over the course of my career I have managed to get myself hooked into really caring for the aged care sector. Improving the lives of clients and residents is at the heart of this, and managing a rest home showed me how vulnerable residents are and how important it is to their quality of life that they’re supported by well-trained staff. Maybe there is a bit of self-interest here as well, because I want something really good to go to when I need it!

From my Health Ed Trust days I also know that education can change the lives of the staff, and that is a powerful motivation for me.

I also love the innovation within my company. Using storytelling is a unique way of learning and so memorable, and it’s a way of providing training that is accessible for a diverse staff base. I love the way the videos use real people in real situations. There is so much to identify with when you are watching the courses. It’s everyday life for aged care workers, doing all the little things that you would only know if you worked in aged care. It’s captured brilliantly on film.

INsite: What sort of training can aged care workers undertake through Aged Care Channel?

JS: That’s another thing I love about the Aged Care Channel – it’s a comprehensive solution. The training covers all levels from cleaners to caregivers, RNs, Activity coordinators, night staff, kitchen staff, and managers. It’s all there.

The programmes are just for aged care – no one else does this in New Zealand.

The home care courses also cover staff working remotely, which really solves a problem. It’s so difficult to find ongoing training specifically for home care employees, other than the NZQA qualifications. The Aged Care Channel programmes are set to global standards at this stage (NZ references will be added from now on). The NZQA NZ Certificates are currently being aligned to our programmes and should be fully integrated to deliver by February 2018. Mostly they are closely aligned already in line with internationally-recognised best practice standards of care.

We also have a fantastic Learning Management System which really has to be seen. This will be very popular with the larger organisations because it makes it easy to track education, author your own courses and provide evidence for auditing purposes. It’s really simple to use.

INsite: Does Aged Care Channel offer workers the chance to complete NZQA approved qualifications so that their training will have a bearing on their pay?

JS: Plans are under way to have the Level 2 and 3 NZ Certificates available by Feb 2018. As soon as these are complete we will work on the Level 4 qualifications. We have signed a partnership agreement with another organisation that is already registered to deliver the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing, so that makes the whole process much easier. Any caregiver who does our NZQA aligned courses will have those courses recognised.

We wouldn’t consider offering our courses in NZ without providing the NZQA qualifications for care staff but this is only one part of the education that is required for this sector. There are so many other regulatory requirements, for example: ARRC contract, orientation, food safety, Health and Safety, RN & EN professional development, and manager education.  We have over 60 courses that cover just about everything you can think of in aged care.

INsite: What makes you think Aged Care Channel will be successful in New Zealand?

JS: So many things! Our training is specific to aged care, is very comprehensive and is really high quality. The videos are very easy to watch (I’ve found them quite addictive) and really memorable. They’re so easy for everyone to understand. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and well, we have lots of pictures. The programmes are updated every five years.

The Aged Care Channel has a 20-year history of delivering aged care education. We have a team of 30 staff who research and produce our courses, many of whom have worked in an aged care facility or for a home care organisation. It is the depth of knowledge that will make us a long-term valued partner in delivering education to the sector.

We work on a Membership agreement that means we really value the relationships with our customers, and we constantly work with them to make sure we are getting it right.

INsite: Have you received any opposition from competitors? Do you think the New Zealand market is big enough for another player?

JS: Although there are a few providers delivering bits and pieces of education, what we do is not really comparable. This is a whole new concept. The other providers of NZQA qualification’s also work across other health sectors so are only comparable in a small way. We have not heard from anyone else so no, we have not received any opposition.

INsite: What have you enjoyed most about launching Aged Care Channel in New Zealand so far?

JS: Definitely getting back into the education side of aged care After 12 years at Health Ed Trust, it’s in my blood! It’s great to be able to offer such quality programmes and I just know it’s going to be so well received here. I’ve loved showing people what we do and seeing their reactions. I don’t think they can quite believe that we have created something just for aged care that has such depth and understanding.

INsite: What are your main goals for Aged Care Channel in New Zealand? What would you like to achieve within the next year?

JS: I have a few, and they’re fairly ambitious too!

  • To become a valued partner in the aged care sector both in residential and home care.
  • To have a large number of organisations fully engaged in educating their staff with our resources.
  • In other countries we partner with other organisations to help them meet their learning and development goals. For example, in Australia the Aged Care Channel makes courses for the Government and other health organisations. I’d like this to happen here as well.
  • To produce some New Zealand specific courses within 12 months. For example, a course around NZ Māori culture.

It’s going to be a roller coaster ride over the next year as we become more widely known and accepted. I can’t wait!

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