Aged care graduate Janet Schipke is among an increasing number of Gympie locals looking to make the most of growing employment opportunities in the Wide Bay and Sunshine Coast health sector.

Employment opportunities in the local health industry are on the rise, with the health and social assistance sector forecast to grow by 10.5 per cent in the Wide Bay area and 19.8 per cent on the Sunshine Coast over the next five years. That’s according to the Australian Government Department of Jobs and Small Business which has also projected a nation-wide growth in the demand for aged and disability carers of 39.3 per cent over the next five years.

It's this industry growth that drew Janet Schipke to enrol in a Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing, Home and Community) (CHC33015) at TAFE Queensland’s Gympie campus in 2018. The 54-year-old traded her job as an environmental scientist for a rewarding and stable career in aged care.

“I was sick of ticking off boxes to cut down trees and clear land for development and I really wanted to do something more community-focussed,” Ms Schipke said.

“I knew aged care was a growth industry and I wanted to set myself up so I could have seamless employment for the next 10 years doing something I love, so I decided to return to study.”

Swapping careers was an intimidating prospect for Ms Schipke, but her decision quickly paid off. Just one month after completing her qualification, Ms Schipke landed a job with Japara Gympie — the same facility where she completed her vocational placement.

“My job is just so rewarding and I get to work with some incredibly professional, caring and compassionate people,” she said.

“It was daunting to begin with because I’d never done this kind of work before — I’d lost my mother-in-law to dementia but that was my only experience. But I decided to commit to it and trust that I was going to be good at it, and when I did my placement it allowed me to see that I really could do it.

“My teacher was fantastic and was able to give us a lot of insight into the industry with her own experience, and there was a lot of hands-on learning opportunities. It was a really supportive journey.”

Research published by Jobs Queensland in 2017 anticipates that 14 per cent of the Fraser Coast workforce will be employed in ‘caring’ positions by 2030.

TAFE Queensland Centre Director for Community Services, Health and Sport, Robyn Littlejohn said the Gympie campus is helping to meet this growing demand with students regularly undertaking vocational placements at Japara Gympie, St Vincent’s Care Services Gympie, and Cooinda Aged Care Centre.

“The support of the local industry has been highly beneficial to our students, providing them with the opportunity to gain valuable practical experience,” Ms Littlejohn said.

“TAFE Queensland is dedicated to providing our students with the knowledge, skills and hands-on experience they need to succeed in their chosen field, and the strong relationships we have with industry gives them the chance to put what they’ve learned into practice in a real-world setting.

“As a result our students graduate job-ready, with the majority of those actively seeking work in Gympie successfully gaining employment in the region, which is a win for both our students and the community.”

Cooinda Aged Care Centre Chief Executive Officer, Robyn Kross said that Cooinda’s experience with TAFE Queensland’s students has always been positive, with the facility hiring several graduates following successful placements.

“It is important for us to support TAFE Queensland and the training opportunities they offer, as they provide better qualified staff with a professional approach to care,” Ms Kross said.

“These placements also provide a learning opportunity for our existing staff through exposure to students and their learnings.”

Find out how you can make the most of the opportunities available in the health sector.

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