Older Australians thriving with new found academic skills

The latest report spearheaded by Council on the Ageing (COTA) Victoria for the Australian Federal Government reveals age is no barrier to academic and career success.


The October 2021 report, “Council on the Ageing (COTA) Victoria Reach, Train and Employ Pilot Project: Evaluation Report” by Workforce Innovation and Development Institute (WIDI), outlined the key results from the inaugural Reach, Train and Employ Project in 2021, which saw 31 Victorian mature aged graduates receive a Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing and Disability).


The Reach, Train and Employ Project, was created to address the increasing number of older Australian workers who are unemployed.


The program was supported by the Try, Test and Learn Fund –an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Social Services, in partnership with RMIT University and Good Shepherd Australia and New Zealand, as part of the Cities of Brimbank, Melton and Bacchus Marsh.


The program aimed to escalate employment outcomes for older Australians through accredited training and job placement in the aged care and disability services sector, supporting older people and people with disabilities in the community.


The Reach, Train and Employ Project was designed to provide training that addresses barriers to employment, including low digital literacy, limited access to technology, as well as health and wellbeing concerns and loss of confidence. The program also provided extended support to assist older workers into sustainable employment such as becoming a personal carer in residential aged care, an in-home support worker, a disability support worker and community based individual support worker


Report’s key findings include:


1.       Student project retention was high, with 81% of enrolled people over 50 (n=37) completing their training, which is significantly higher than the national average completion rate for the same course (39%). The high retention is even more impressive considering the numerous COVID-19 related challenges that students and project operators have faced, such as the sudden and unanticipated transition to remote learning; multiple lock-downs; and work placement delays.


2.       One ageist myth is that people aged over 50 are not willing to learn new skills or pursue professional development. The Reach, Train and Employ participants demonstrated they are more than willing and capable to learn new skills by re-training into a new career. In fact, the report showed that of the 37 participants aged over 50, no less than 52% were still considering further study opportunities, after completing their Certificate III in Individual Support.


3.       Reach, Train and Employ adopted a supportive training model, offering a range of project supports designed to increase participant engagement and their project completion. Support ranged from practical supports, such as assistance with coursework and assessments, to mental health assistance, to material supports such as food relief. Evaluation indicates the provision of these supports have played a key role in ensuring high participant engagement and project retention. Data suggest the supports were highly valued by people over 50, and for some participants, supports were critical to their project access and engagement.


4.       Evidence suggests the best project model outcomes for people over 50 are likely when they have access to diverse support types, which can be individualised to differing participant needs and are responsive to changes in participant needs.


5.       The ongoing life coaching sessions were highly valued by most people over 50 and project staff reported it to be a crucial element of the project’s model.


6.       The participants came to training with a wide variety of skills, experiences, needs and responsibilities. Findings suggest, for people over 50 at risk of long-term unemployment, their successful engagement in study requires a responsive and supportive educational model.


7.       Evidence suggests for people over 50 at risk of long-term unemployment, the wrap around support and inclusive training model resulted in positive employment outcomes in the social service sector. At the time of preparation of this final evaluation report, the project was on track to meet its 90% employment target within six months of project completion.


COTA Victoria CEO, Tina Hogarth-Clarke said, The Reach, Train and Employ Project proved to be so much more than an academic program for older Victorians.“The Reach Train and Employ Project became a catalyst in unlocking passions and experience from the graduating group,who were hungry to pursue career and life changing opportunities.


“We found that many of the graduates discovered not only new-found skills but also used their vast experience and wisdom to contribute to their new work positions,” Tina said. With the success of Reach, Train and Employ, Wennie van Riet, Team Leader Social and Economic Participation at COTA Victoria will be setting up an all-new initiative in 2022, Women Working Together, a mentor program for women over the age of 50 to become mentors to support other women on their training and employment pathway.


“COTA Victoria is committed in creating and delivering innovative programs which give older Victorians the opportunity to thrive in new environments, using their skills and sharing their insights along the way, ”Wennie said.


For more information on Women Working Together, visit: Women Working Together -COTA Victoria


22 November 2021.