The care sector is where Australia is facing the worst skills shortages


care childcare-family-friendly-workplace

Source: Gautam Arora/Unsplash

We’ve long been conditioned to think about the future of work as being all about tech. If you want to have skills that are in-demand in the future, then consider courses and careers in software development, cybersecurity, and data analytics.

These skills will be critical to the future, just as they are now. They’re areas that continue to be dominated by men, and we desperately need to find more opportunities for women and girls to succeed in such careers.

But they are far from the only type of in-demand careers necessary now or in the future.

No matter what the future of work brings, the caring economy will underpin it all. The cybersecurity experts will get sick — requiring nurses. The coders will get older, requiring aged care and support services. The computer science graduates may go on to have children, and need early childhood education.

The jobs of the future will primarily be about care: aged care, disability support care, childcare, nursing and health care, education and learning care. It’s a future of work that is actually very much here in the present, we just continue to ignore the reality of the desperate need to look after and properly value those working within these fields.

The latest finding from the 2022 Skills Priority List, released on Monday by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, hint at what is ahead.

Four of the top 10 in-demand professions over the next five years are directly related to the caring economy, but they are professions that also happen to be recording significantly high rates of burnout and frustration from those working within them.

Those four that are in-demand include early childhood teachers, registered nurses, child care workers and aged and disability carers.

Also on the top 10 list are: construction managers, civil engineering professionals, ICT business and systems analysts, software and application programmers, electricians and chefs.

These professions are significantly smaller than those covered across the other four that relate to ‘care’.

Now as we consider just how in demand these care fields are, we should also consider the high rates of intentions to leave from those working within them.

In nursing, a massive three quarters of nurses declared an intention to leave over the next two to five years.

Similar figures were reported for early childhood education workers back in 2021, with 73% of educators declaring plans to leave within three years, according to a survey of 4000 such workers by the United Workers union.

We’ve hit a crisis point. One that must be considered at the upcoming Albanese government’s Jobs Summit, and one that will only get more difficult to manage if we fail to act accordingly and consider the challenges impacting those within such professions now. Key on the Albanese agenda is a plan to deliver up to half a million fee-free TAFE places to help address skill shortage areas.

These places would be offered primarily to school leavers, as well as those wanting to retrain, and to unpaid carers (who are predominantly women). There may be some great opportunities within such fee-free initiatives to support women’s workforce participation.

But also critical for ensuring we have the skills we need across in demand professions is retaining the talent we actually already have, particularly across the care sectors, and especially by addressing some of the many issues that are seeing current workers in these sectors wanting to leave.

From there, we also need to encourage more boys and men to consider careers across the caring economy — just like we have programs and various initiatives to encourage girls and women into STEM.

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

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