The ability to use digital technologies and the internet to find information and communicate involves a form of literacy known as digital literacy.
Smartphones, smart watches, computers, cars — the online world is very much a part of the real world. Being digitally literate in your business, employment and personal life is now essential.
The coronavirus pandemic fast-tracked and increased the need for digital literacy, with an enormous uptake of digital technologies for working from home and connecting across the world. It’s not a bad thing though — individuals and organisations across a variety of sectors can use digital literacy to optimise their communication, productivity and approach to work and education. With a little know how, your business can use digital and online tools to reach your goals sooner and run your business more efficiently.
Improve your digital literacy and thrive
Improve your digital literacy for a range of benefits for your business (and your personal life), including:
Better access to information
Being able to use digital software and leverage the power of the internet can give you access to more ways to gain information, both professionally and personally. Improving your digital literacy gives you access to more resources than ever before to enhance the way you run your business. As your digital literacy expands, so does your knowledge.
Connect more effectively
Email, phone, text, video conferencing — there are so many options to connect with colleagues, friends and family. Texts are fast and informal and great for short messages or if you need to know something quickly. Using video conferencing platforms for personal face-to-face connection or support, and feel comfortable enough to ask the questions you really want to know.
Your willingness to tackle new things and ability to navigate digital platforms shows that your business is ahead of the pack. Being open to technology and the capabilities of the internet is a strength in our modern world.
Getting to know digital and online tools
Communicate, learn, plan, coordinate and explore — there’s an app, program or tool for just about anything. It’s impossible to know how to use them all, but being competent in a few of the most commonly used platforms will go a long way. Plus, you can generally apply your skills across many once you have the idea. Understand the ways digital platforms may be used, which are popular and what’s expected of you when using them.
Though it’s been used in businesses and homes for many years, video conferencing has been incredibly useful and popular during 2020 to give us access to a face-to-face communication experience without leaving our homes. Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Google Meet — there are countless platforms to use so we can see one another, talk to one another and even share our screens. This makes learning, working and staying connected accessible with nothing more than a computer or phone and an internet connection.
Sharing and storing files can use a lot of space, but there are many online places who are happy to share some space with you. OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive — there are plenty of options to choose from when you need to share a big file or many files, or if you want to store your files somewhere and provide select others (or anyone) with access to them.
Hardly a new technology, email has been used personally and professionally since the 1990s. In today’s workplaces and educational settings, email is vital and used frequently and has long replaced the fax. Emails are used for sending messages, invitations, files, images and links. Good email etiquette can impact how you are seen by others, so it’s important to get it right.
- Use clear subject lines: Keeping email communications efficient and easy to find is best achieved with clear subject lines that stick to the topic of their contents.
- Check your spelling and grammar: Professionalism is a must via email, and correct spelling and grammar showcase your communication skills and attention to detail. Avoid emojis and text shorthand (brb, lol, thx) as a general rule. Personal email? Feel free to have a little fun!
- Assess the email trail before forwarding: Forwarding an email can be very efficient, but keep in mind that not every piece of information may be appropriate for the next recipient. Check through the email trail of replies before forwarding it on.
- Make note of attachments: If you’re attaching a file to your email, let the recipient know. And similarly, if you’re telling your recipient there’s an attachment, don’t forget to attach it before sending.
Quick tips for building digital literacy
If you’re not yet confident about your digital literacy, open your mind to learning. It’s not as overwhelming as it looks to become online savvy and with some time and patience you can reap the rewards for managing and communicating with employees, searching, storing and presenting information and collaborating with your teams in digital spaces.
Jump in and try
Don’t be afraid! Download a couple of apps, visit a few websites you’ve heard about and just explore. Just use your common sense, like avoiding entering payment details or testing out sending features with anything private.
Doing everything at once might just end up confusing. Break your goals down and celebrate the smaller wins. You’ll be doing it all in no time.
Ask for help
With so many apps and devices to be across, it’s not surprising if you can’t get your head around a couple. It’s great to ask for help — that’s the best way to learn.
It’s good to know that once you begin to improve your digital literacy, it gets easier to expand your know-how very quickly. When you’re getting started, be patient with yourself and forgiving if you take a little longer to get the hang of things.
Before you know it you will be running a glitch-free Zoom session with ease.
Thinking about heading back to study in your later 20s, 30s, 40s or 50s? This means you will be returning as a mature age student. If it’s been a while since you last studied, whether it was in high school or undertaking a course, you might feel a little nervous. But there’s no need to worry – it’s not as daunting as it sounds.
Studying as a mature age student doesn’t have to be difficult, especially if you choose a course that is best suited to your goals and circumstances.
There are many reasons to return to study, and gaining a new qualification might enable you to take the next step in your career. When deciding on an appropriate course you might ask yourself a few questions, like:
- Does this course offer flexible learning?
- Does this course suit my needs and aspirations?
- Will this course lead to rewarding career progression?
Once you’ve answered these questions you might consider some strategies which will help you ease back into learning. It’s never too late to return to study, and there are plenty of simple and effective ways to make the process easier.
Choose flexible learning
A good way to achieve a healthy balance between life and study is to choose a course with options for flexible learning. The transition to online learning fast-tracked by the pandemic has made accessing education a lot easier for many people, and there are a wide range of benefits to studying online. For one thing, your schedule is up to you which makes it far easier to manage study with work or family commitments.
Flexible learning doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on practical training or support either. Catalyst’s registered training organisations have a dedicated team of trainers and professionals who support you every step of the way, and connect you to all the resources you need.
Organisation and planning are the keys to managing a busy schedule, and if you have a lot on your plate it might be a good idea to get everything ready before your course commences. This might look like:
- Preparing for study by purchasing materials like books and stationery
- Understanding what is expected of you in terms of assessment
- Taking note of key dates
- Arranging child care
- Adding study time into your weekly routine
- Planning your work roster around study dates
- Familiarising yourself with the online learning portal and any computer programs or technology that will help you to learn
With a little planning, you can ensure your transition to studying will be as smooth as possible.
Reach out for support
Remember that if you’re feeling overwhelmed, with the right trainer support is never far away. Your learning and wellbeing are the number one priority at Catalyst RTOs, and we encourage learners to take advantage of services designed to ensure you feel capable and supported. We have Learner Success Teams so learners have the opportunity to ask questions, discuss challenges to help identify solutions to any issues you might face. The types of things the Learner Success Teams can help with are:
- Language support, including for those who may not have English as their first language
- Study tips for success
- Advice on how to maximise your learning potential
- Literacy and numeracy support
- Assistance with securing placement and preparing your resume
Taking advantage of support services means RTOs working together with learners to maximise the learning experience.
Technology is something we cannot live without, but for some of us learning how to use it feels like a difficult, daunting or downright terrifying task. Whether you’re tech-savvy or have trouble turning your phone on, embracing technology can be really helpful in terms of study. If you’re worried, just remember that most of the technology used at quality RTOs is designed to be user-friendly. If you’re unsure how to use a program or device, don’t despair. Just ask for some help!
Returning to study could be the most rewarding thing you do and can change your life for the better. Catalyst’s RTOs specialise in aged care and early childhood education courses for those starting out right through to experienced individuals wanting to upskill. They also have a range of short courses that can level up your knowledge and skillset.
Head to our RTO websites to learn more about our course offerings and discover the fulfilment that can come from studying as a mature aged learner.
Each year International Women’s Day is acknowledged on 8 March with the mission of celebrating women across the world. It is a time to recognise how far we have come in the pursuit of gender equality but also how far we still have to go.
The message is clear: Women’s rights are human rights, and International Women’s Day encourages communities to reflect on how we can continue to do better.
Did you know that in 1911 only eight countries across the globe allowed women to vote? And while today we strive to achieve equal pay for men and women, equal work was unlikely, with women often denied the opportunity to enter the workforce.
In Australia, conversations are happening along with a gradual change toward equality in many areas. It’s exciting to know that today there are many women who feel they have not encountered discrimination or faced barriers to achieve success in their lives. Unfortunately that is not the experience of all women.
International Women’s Day is a call to action to stand up for women across the globe. This includes women who are further marginalised due to ethnicity, disability, religion and sexuality.
Women’s crucial contribution to the workforce and community
Caring, compassionate, talented, professional women fulfil the majority of care roles in Australia — a fact that should not be taken for granted.
At Catalyst Education’s RTOs we have seen many people make incredible and inspiring contributions to early childhood education and aged care, with the majority of these being women.
Their work changes lives for the better — laying the foundation for children to have the best start in life, and supporting the elderly to live with dignity as they age.
Challenging gender stereotypes in aged care and early childhood
In a gender-equal world we can provide more opportunities to reinforce the fact that caring is a human response of which both men and women are capable of. Gender equality can enable us to work together to make a difference.
Even in Australia, gender stereotypes continue to have an impact on career choices for both women and men. While providing care and the desire to help and make a difference to the wellbeing of others is a human quality evident across all genders, care roles are still typically viewed as roles for women.
While around 30 percent of aged recipients are men, only 10 percent of carers in the sector are male. Female aged care workers make up approximately 90 percent of the sector’s workforce. This significantly high percentage of women in aged care roles is similar across all western countries.
Meanwhile, early childhood education in Australia is equally available to young boys and girls, yet when it comes to the workforce, around 97 percent of educators are women. That leaves as little as three percent of educators who are male.
The movement behind days like International Women’s Day help us to empower women to reach their fullest potential as a human being, not just as a women.
Our thanks to women on IWD 2022
Women are a vital part of our team as trainers, support staff and leaders. This International Women’s Day, and every day, we send our thanks to all women. To the women we work with, we acknowledge the brilliant work you accomplish and the immense contribution you make.
At Catalyst, we will continue to support women to find the right career for them and succeed at every level across the workforce and in our communities.
As schools return for 2022, the Victorian Government’s Head Start traineeship program will make its mark on the early childhood education sector.
Head Start Apprenticeship Traineeship Program is supporting essential sectors like early childhood education to develop a highly skilled workforce while also allowing young people to make a start on their careers while completing their schooling.
Catalyst RTO Selmar is proud to be the partnering early childhood education course provider for the Head Start Apprenticeship Traineeship Program.
What is the Head Start Apprenticeship Traineeship Program?
Head Start is a new education pathway enabling secondary school students to make a start on vocational training. The program helps students to develop skills and experience that are valued by employers to students to get the best start in their careers.
Designed for students who are currently completing secondary school, Head Start presents the opportunity for young people to complete their Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) or Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) while undertaking paid on-the-job training that leads to a vocational qualification.
The Head Start Apprenticeship Traineeship Program recognises that students learn in different ways, have different passions and can empower them to make their own career choices.
As a school-based traineeship, Head Start tailors vocational qualifications to make it achievable for students to complete their secondary school studies, as well as vocational training and paid practical training.
Rather than leave school to pursue a qualification and employment, students can continue to complete their secondary schooling while gaining the confidence, capabilities and skills needed to thrive in growth sectors such as early childhood education.
How Head Start supports Early Childhood Education services
Trainees can be a valuable addition to your early childhood education workforce. Traineeships present an advantageous opportunity for employers in early childhood education who seek to effectively train staff on the job within their workplace environment. This means the chance to develop the ideal team for your workplace from their commencement of training and beyond.
The Head Start Apprenticeship Traineeship Program matches your early learning service to a committed trainee. From there, you will be provided with one-on-one support from the Head Start Coordinator.
The Head Start Coordinator will assist you by creating a Head Start Pathway Plan for your trainee that is tailored to your centre. A trainee will be supported through their CHC30121 Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care coursework. This means you can enjoy the benefits of adding a passionate trainee to your team, without disruption to the way you like to run your centre.
Head Start is an opportunity for your early childhood education service to grow, training employees to meet the needs and standards of your business, improving retention along the way.
Selmar’s partnership with Head Start
The team at Selmar is committed to supporting young people in becoming future-ready and for the early childhood education sector to build a high quality, talented workforce. As such, Selmar is excited to be partnering with Head Start as an approved early childhood education and care training provider.
The experienced team of trainers at Selmar will be delivering quality training and conducting practical placement observation to maximise the outcomes for all involved with Head Start.
Head Start is focused on empowering young people to make a difference in the meaningful early childhood education sector. For early learning services, highly skilled and confident employees are always sought after and Head Start trainees will be equipped with the training and practical experience to thrive.
Get in touch with Selmar to learn more about Head Start.
The start of a new year often comes with a renewed energy and desire to hit the reset button. This is a great to time to assess your goals for the year and work out what you need to do to achieve them. Many business owners and managers are now thinking about what they want their business to look like in 2022 and beyond.
It’s good to start at the end goal and work back from there so you can ensure you create an effective pathway to take your business in the direction you want it to go. This might include things like a reshuffle of your team, creating upskilling opportunities for your staff or building on your team to meet demand. First things first — ask yourself the key questions to help ascertain what your business needs.
What will your business look like in 2022 and beyond?
The answer to this question really depends on your approach, your focus and your current situation. What do you want your business to look like? Are you looking to grow? Do you have new projects in mind? Are there certain key areas you want to improve? Do you want to build your team? How do you want your staff to function and work together?
Write down a few questions like these and start noting some answers that come to mind. Consider prioritising them, and jot down what you think you can or need to do to make these goals become a reality.
Tips for recruiting new staff
If your goals include recruiting new staff or training your team, keep reading for some useful advice.
Recruitment takes time and energy, so getting right from the beginning is crucial. These tips will help:
Take your time preparing your job advertisement:
To attract the right person, you need to paint a clear picture of what the role involves and the type of candidate you are looking for. Describe your business and its values. Explain the expectations and try to be specific where possible. Consider also what you believe the right employee would be looking for and incorporate information that they would be interested in — this might be your employee benefits, flexible hours or salary perks. In creating the best possible job advertisement, you will hopefully narrow down the applicants to those who are well-suited.
Ensure they are well-trained:
When reviewing job applications, it’s one thing to know that an applicant had completed the required course or has the necessary experience, but why not dig deeper? Understanding where a person has completed their training can give you some further insight. Try to get an insight into which course providers training that will align their graduates with your approach to aged care. If they’re new to your sector, what sort of expectation do you have for them around hands-on experience? Could they have completed work experience or practical placement as part of their training? For many sectors, that hands-on experience is invaluable and quality training providers incorporate it many courses.
Consider their adaptive skills:
Training is important and knowing that your potential staff member has trained with a quality course provider is a big tick. However, don’t forget to consider their adaptive skills too. Sometimes known as soft skills, these qualities are crucial to support their technical skills in the workplace. Think emotional intelligence, communication, problem solving abilities and time management. These are vital for those working with others, in teams or communicating with customers or clients.
Ask the right questions:
When it comes time to interview your shortlisted candidates, think carefully about what questions you will ask to decide if they are the right fit. Some great questions to consider might be: What characteristics do you think are important for working in this business? What do you believe we do? What do you want to achieve in your role? Don’t forget to ask yourself questions when considering a candidate too — do they have the skills needed for the role, and will they help you achieve your business goals?
Retaining and supporting staff
Effective recruitment goes beyond the initial application, interview and hiring phase. Quality staff should be embraced and supported in order to keep them feeling fulfilled and nurtured as part of your team.
A key way to ensure employees experience job satisfaction in your workplace is by offering them ongoing training opportunities or professional development. This can increase their motivation and passion within the sector, keep them up to date with best practice and support their own career progression goals.
Careful recruitment along with upskilling your team can improve their ability and motivation to do their job to the highest standard, which can in turn help you achieve your business goals. Make 2022 the year that your business shines.
Reflecting as the year ends and a new one begins is something that many of us do. We assess what went right, what wasn’t so great, what worked, what didn’t work and so on. What will you do differently next year, and what brought fulfilment to your year?
If 2021 has left you feeling depleted, or like you didn’t quite achieve what you set out to, you’re not alone. For many, it wasn’t quite the year they had in mind. However, taking the time to reassess and set some realistic goals can be an effective way of moving forward in a positive way. Now is the perfect time to start setting yourself up for success in 2022.
Reasons why we set goals
New year’s resolutions, fitness targets, savings plans — as human beings, goal setting seems to come naturally to many of us.
We can set goals for a range of reasons, and it’s usually a combination of these:
- Finding motivation
- Improving your current situation
- Getting through your ‘wish list’ or ‘to do list’ in life
- Helping get to your next step
- Keeping yourself accountable
The SMART approach to goal setting
Of course, it’s one thing to set goals, but what can we do to help ourselves actually achieve them? You can approach goal setting in many ways — think of it personally, stick a note on your bathroom mirror, post it publicly to social media, team up with a friend. It’s important to find an approach that best suits you and seems to help you get the results you are striving for.
One particular approach that is highly regarded to improve your chance at succeeding in reaching your goals is taking the SMART approach. To be clear, that is an acronym, with SMART standing for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Let’s take a closer look at each of these:
- Specific: What do you want to accomplish and what needs to be done?
- Measurable: How will you track your progress on achieving this goal?
- Achievable: Know what is required to achieve the goal and be sure that it can be done based on any potential constraints.
- Relevant: Is it worthwhile, is this the right time and what will I get from accomplishing it?
- Time-bound: Work toward a deadline. When do you want to complete this goal and what mini-deadlines will help create a feasible timeline to get there.
Whether you want to run 5 kilometres in a certain time frame, or you are aiming to learn to play a song on guitar, using the SMART methodology is an excellent way to frame your goal setting.
The value of goal setting to fulfil potential
When we set goals, we are demonstrating hope for the future. We are foreshadowing a better version of ourselves and a journey of growth that we are excited for. As well as motivating us to get from where we are to where we want to be, goals can also contribute to improved mental health and wellbeing.
You can use the power of goal setting in a variety of settings each with unique outcomes. You might apply goals to your career, education, finances, family, physical health, mental health, creative endeavours, public service, relationships and more.
The combination of goal setting mobilising us to take action and improving our performance as we strive to achieve the goals can increase our ability to reach our potential and lead a fulfilling life where we continually move forward.
We’re here to support you in achieving your goals
If you’ve been considering where you are now and where you want to be, it’s possible that you are thinking about a new career path, ways to improve your business or how to better support those around you.
The results are in from the latest survey from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), and Catalyst training organisations continue to deliver training satisfaction and employment outcomes for learners.
Informing and influencing the vocational education and training (VET) space in Australia drives NCVER’s research, and each year learners who have completed studies in the VET sector are invited to take part in their student outcomes survey.
Catalyst’s RTOs Selmar Institute of Education, Royal College of Healthcare and Practical Outcomes were included in the recent survey. All our brands are firm in the belief that education should be human-centred — as such, results such as those from the NCVER survey are important to us. They add to our own feedback processes to ensure that we are always maximising the outcomes for our learners, and providing a rewarding training experience.
Adapting to new ways of learning
As we, along with much of the world, shifted to studying online from the onset of the pandemic, optimising the distance and online learning experiences was of paramount importance. Our approach meant that learners received a dedicated trainer and comprehensive support regardless of their course delivery mode.
With over 91% of learners at Selmar and Practical Outcomes reporting that they were satisfied with the overall quality of their training, our efforts paid off for those enrolled in our courses.
Training to enhance outcomes in employment
Of course, while training experience is important, the outcomes for learners are a priority. Whether it’s upskilling or entering their chosen sector, where your studies take you really matters. For survey respondents who trained with Selmar, combining aged care learners and those completing studies in early childhood education, 90.1% of Selmar learners were employed or enrolled in further study after training with us, with 78.4% of Selmar learners reporting that they improved their employment status after completing their training with us.
Similar outcomes were experienced by respondents who were studying early childhood education sector at Practical Outcomes — 89.6% of Practical Outcomes’ learners were employed or enrolled in further study after training with us and 92.6% of our learners found Practical Outcomes’ training relevant to their job.
Achieving career goals
The aged care learners at Royal College reported meeting their goals too, with 85.8% of Royal College learners achieving their main reason for completing training. With employment — gaining employment or career progression — a key focus area for most learners, 96.4% of Royal College learners were employed or enrolled in further study after training with us, and 91.3% of our learners found Royal College’s training relevant to their job.
Striving for continual improvement and growth
The results of the annual NCVER Survey are promising and tell us that our RTOs are meeting the needs of learners in both the aged care sector and early childhood education and care sector. We also identify that there is room for improvement and look forward to continuing to listen and enhance the way we consider, design and deliver high quality vocational education. Together we can all reach our full potential.
About this report:
Information in the report is presented on Selmar/Practical Outcomes/Royal College qualification completers’ reasons for training, their employment outcomes, further study outcomes and satisfaction with training. The figures are derived from the National Student Outcomes Survey, which is an annual survey of VET students.
Pre-pandemic life can seem like a distant memory, especially for those in Victoria and New South Wales. After almost two years of studying from home, working from home, and/or adapting to challenging circumstances as essential workers in aged care and early childhood education, the time has come to explore the new normal.
With rising vaccination rates across the country and restrictions easing, the time has come for us to move into a post-lockdown world. While the prospect of heading back out into the world is exciting, not to mention seeing loved ones after months apart, you might feel nervous or worried. Rest assured this is completely normal. To ensure the transition to the new normal goes smoothly for you, we have compiled some tips that might help.
Move at your own pace
No doubt being able to access our freedoms again means there will be the opportunity to make some changes in your life. This doesn’t mean you have to transform the way you live overnight. Take some time to assess what might change in your life in the coming weeks and months and make plans with a timeline that feels right.
You might prefer to ease back slowly — rushing to fill every day in your calendar and visit every favourite restaurant right away isn’t necessary. If you need to, slow it down to a pace that suits you to build your confidence starting with places where you feel comfortable.
On the other hand, if you’re ready to jump in to life where you left off that’s fine too. Keep following the latest health and safety guidelines to keep yourself and your community safe while enjoying life in the way that makes you happy.
Making plans and setting goals
During lockdown you might have already reflected on your life and goals, and thought about what you want to achieve. Exploring new hobbies or activities, or even a new career could be on your agenda.
Any time is a great time to consider taking up a course or upskilling to advance your career. Aged care or early childhood education are two booming sectors are offering excellent job prospects for caring individuals who are seeking a career that is both rewarding and meaningful. Aged care workers deliver life-altering care for ageing individuals who require support to get the most from life. In early childhood education, you provide care for children from birth through to school age, supporting them through the most critical stage of development and laying the foundation for their education. Each is a career path with plenty of options to grow and thrive!
Maintain good habits
When we started adjusting to restrictions and changes when lockdowns were initially introduced, it became apparent how important daily routines can be. Same applies when looking at easing restrictions and their implications for our daily lives. Keeping some things as they are could be a good way of transitioning gently, for example your morning walk and coffee or evening reading hour.
Just because restrictions are coming to an end, it doesn’t mean you need to stop doing those activities that you really enjoyed during lockdown. Many people found themselves become passionate about cooking, exercise routines or hobbies at home, and it’s okay to continue with the things you have come to love – especially if they’ve been good for you!
It might be tempting to rush out and do everything all at once simply because we are allowed, but keep prioritising your self-care and don’t push yourself too hard. There’s plenty of time to enjoy those freedoms we’ve all been longing for.
Talk to your friends and families
If you feel anxious, apprehensive or nervous about the easing restrictions and our re-introduction into the world, reach out and talk to those around you. Your friends, family and colleagues can offer support and may even be experiencing similar feelings. After all, we’ve all been through this together and we’re coming out of it together too.
When making plans, don’t forget to check in with your friends, family and work colleagues about what they are comfortable doing. We are all different — communication is key to take a supportive approach as we navigate the new normal.
Remember, you might need to adjust your expectations a little because chances are life won’t be exactly the same as pre-pandemic but there are still so many fun and exciting things to do in the new normal.
Keep the resources below in mind for anyone who needs support for their mental health and wellbeing:
Provide access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.
Telephone: 13 11 14
Provides information, and support for depression, anxiety and suicide prevention.
Telephone: 1300 224 636
Provides young people with information and resources on mental health, physical health, work and study support, and alcohol and other drug services.
Telephone: 1800 650 890
Provides 24 hour support to people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse.
Telephone: 1800 737 732
Provides free effective internet delivered psychological assessment and treatment for stress, anxiety, worry, depression, low mood, OCD and trauma (PTSD).
Telephone: 1800 614 434
Provides private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25.
Telephone: 1800 55 1800
National Debt Helpline
Helps people tackle their debt problems.
Telephone: 1800 007 007
National Coronavirus Helpline
Provides information and advice about COVID-19.
Telephone: 1800 020 080
While every day can be a day to talk about and work on mental health, World Mental Health Day is a powerful reminder.
What better time to reflect on mental health and its impact, particularly during the pandemic through these last two years. It’s also an opportunity to renew our focus on how we can do better when it comes to supporting one another, as well as prioritising self-care.
An international day dedicated to raising awareness and promoting mental health education, World Mental Health Day takes place on Sunday 10 October. In 2021, the World Mental Health Day theme is Mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality.
As well as raising awareness, taking the time to acknowledge the impact mental health can have on us all helps to break the stigma. In turn, this means more people will understand that mental health issues can touch anyone and that reaching out for support is not only acceptable but commendable.
Understanding the mental health effects of the pandemic
Mental health can impact anyone, regardless of age, career, gender or any status. It’s well-known that the pandemic presented a range of challenges that contributed to mental health struggles for people across Australia and the world.
Aged care workers, early childhood educators and a selection of other sector workers were deemed to be essential early in the pandemic. While this meant many were able to continue to work while others were losing their jobs and required to remain in lockdown at home, the impacts were certainly felt.
Those working in aged care were on the frontline of the pandemic as coronavirus swept through aged care services. Break-outs in these settings had tragic outcomes and resulted in many deaths. Even for aged care services who managed to stay safe from Covid-19, their residents were isolated in lockdown with visitors banned. Aged care workers have provided companionship and compassion to elderly residents and done their best to keep them connected with their families and the outside world for almost two years.
Early childhood educators have worked hard to continue provide care for children as well as a sense of normality during a period that was confusing and scary for children. Hygiene has always been of the utmost importance in early childhood, but the pandemic meant even more rigorous hygiene procedures. Masks and sanitiser have been a staple, along with temperature checks and measures that minimise the mingling of staff and children.
After dealing with some of the most challenging times ever faced in the workplace, these essential workers also navigated the other various restrictions that came with lockdowns. Students, too, lived through lockdown circumstances — not seeing friends and family, staying at home — while adapting to a range of shifts in their study journey. Courses went online, practical placements were delayed, and learners continued to push through their training with the support of dedicated and understanding trainers.
Let’s take a moment to recognise our essential workers’ incredible contribution to communities through extremely tough times. Similarly, a big congratulations to learners who stuck to their study journeys and adapted as needed, and those who took to working from home and the juggling required to do so productively.
Supporting self-care to help mental health and wellbeing
Getting through is one thing, but thriving is quite another. The resilience and commitment to push on during the pandemic has been impressive, however taking the time to look after your mental health while working and/or studying is crucial.
A little self-care can go a long way, especially when you know what you need to optimise your mental health. Many workers and learners have similar requirements when it comes to self-care that will enhance mental health and wellbeing. To support you in supporting yourself, we have some tips you might like to try:
- Get organised: A clear space to work in or from can help to clear your mind too. This means a tidy workspace for learners, well-organised desk, locker and bag for workers and ideally a home environment that further supports that clear headspace.
- Create a routine that works for you: This one is pretty personal, as what works for one person’s day won’t necessarily work for yours. Even if each day is different, try to create a weekly schedule that you can follow. A good routine should reduce stress, allowing for travel time and carving out space for things you love. Whether it’s a favourite show, exercise or catch ups with loved ones, your routine can help you fit in a solid balance of work and play.
- Stay on top of your health: Eating healthily and getting some exercise in each day is pretty simple (especially with a good routine!). Healthy eating means getting all the nutrients you need to thrive. Go for fruit, veggies, protein and healthy carbohydrates, and keep exercise something you enjoy so you can look forward to it. Incidental exercise is great too — park the car a little further from the supermarket, walk to the train station or to get your morning coffee. Those little things really count!
- Have boundaries in place: Create clear boundaries of when the work day begins and ends. Don’t check work emails after hours unless required, finish your day with a walk or your favourite snack. Put on a podcast or music you love on the way home to unwind. Your work day, or even your study time, should have a beginning and an end so you can relax.
- Do things you love: Do you love a nice, hot bath? Picnics? Beach walks? Video games? Reading books in the sun? Say yes to activities that make you happy to ensure you are achieving a fulfilling balance in your life. Things that make you feel good are worth doing!
Supporting the aged care and early childhood sectors
Whether you’re studying or working while studying or thinking about studying, we make sure you are supported to chase your goals in a way that works for you.
The Catalyst Education registered training organisations take a flexible and human-centred approach to training, along with plenty of success every step of the way. We have teams in place to help learners negotiate a range of obstacles that you might encounter while training. Whether you need support with English, literacy, numeracy, general study tips or even help with a resume, there is help available. Not to mention our dedicated trainers in both aged care and early childhood education. They are available to be there for learners as needed via phone, email, video chat or even in-person when permitted.
Self-care and support from those around you can be hugely beneficial for mental health, but there are other resources to reach out to as well. Your GP can help you with a mental health plan, or get in touch with one of the reputable mental health support organisations listed below. Self-care is a must, but there is further support out there when you need it too.
Lifeline Australia – Provide access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.
Telephone: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue – Provides information, and support for depression, anxiety and suicide prevention.
Telephone: 1300 224 636
Headspace – Provides young people with information and resources on mental health, physical health, work and study support, and alcohol and other drug services.
Telephone: 1800 650 890
1800 Respect – Provides 24 hour support to people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse.
Telephone: 1800 737 732
Mindspot – Provides free effective internet delivered psychological assessment and treatment for stress, anxiety, worry, depression, low mood, OCD and trauma (PTSD).
Telephone: 1800 614 434
Kids Helpline – Provides private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25.
Telephone: 1800 55 1800
National Debt Helpline – Helps people tackle their debt problems.
Telephone: 1800 007 007
National Coronavirus Helpline – Provides information and advice about COVID-19.
Telephone: 1800 020 080
Attracting and maintaining high quality staff is a challenge for many sectors. In particular, this has become a shared challenge of the early childhood education and aged care sectors.
Current statistics for employment in these sectors, along with future forecasting, demonstrates clear opportunities for improvement. Estimates from the Australian Government suggest that at least 17,000 more aged care workers will be needed in Australia every year over the next decade to meet sector demand.
Meanwhile, a 2019 a survey revealed that up to two in three early childhood educators in Victoria were considering leaving their role. High turnover of staff in childcare services across the country is a common issue.
There are overlapping reasons for these staff shortfalls across both sectors; including industry perceptions and a lack of training and upskill opportunities, along with wage concerns.
Encouragingly, the Federal Government has been focused on both child care and aged care sectors in recent years, with strong recommendations for reform to improve prospects and conditions for workers, such as those included in the recent aged care royal commission.
While progress at a Government level is encouraging, child care and aged care employers require more immediate action to address staff shortages, including attracting high quality workers to their organisations and retaining them.
Many are beginning to implement a range of strategies with the aim of achieving these staffing goals and ensuring they can create a thriving workplace now and into the future.
Effective partnerships with training providers
Partnering with leading training providers is a smart way for employers to gain direct access to high quality graduates. In many cases, it can create a direct pipeline for acquiring talent, whether through practical placement or adding a drawcard for incoming staff who want to receive quality training. This means less reliance on costly and time-consuming recruitment processes and often a higher standard of employee.
Employers taking on learners in practical placements not only helps increase their staff ratios, but gives them an opportunity to meet prospective employees and test whether they’ll be a good fit for their organisation before the formal hiring process.
Catalyst’s Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) have over 15 years’ experience working with child care or aged care organisations, and in the case of Selmar both, to help address their staff shortages with well-rounded trainees and graduates.
Provide opportunities for staff training and upskilling
With a particular need to encourage younger entrants into both child and aged care sectors, employers should be able to demonstrate they’re willing to help their staff grow their skills and experiences over time. Upskilling and career progression is something that organisations of all sizes can foster in their staff, and it can go a long way to retaining them.
Again, partnering with organisations like Catalyst and our training organisations can make it easier to design training pathways for staff that have the desire to upskill, helping to keep them engaged and interested in staying on long term.
With changes to minimum qualifications required to work in in aged care and high expectations for those working in the essential child care sector, businesses that are proactive about training their staff will reap the most rewards short and long term.
Seeking out passion and commitment
Finding great people who are committed to their work and contribute to a positive workplace culture isn’t always easy.
While people who are fully qualified or even over-qualified may seem like the best fit on paper, they may not always translate to outstanding staff. Recruiters are increasingly viewing soft skills in critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, leadership and teamwork in high regard.
While “hard” skills gaps can be addressed by the organisation through training, it’s almost impossible to foster a true passion for making a difference in your staff. At Catalyst, our organisations’ courses incorporate self-reflection and foster growth of soft skills throughout the training journey.
Well-developed soft skills along with caring and compassionate natures — those people who find meaning in supporting others — will more likely make better long-term employee. Plus, you can support them to upskill their formal training and meet their individual goals.
Focus on workplace culture
A positive and supportive workplace culture is something that all employers can take an active role in creating – and it starts from a management level. Senior staff should feel supported and motivated to be their best, and in turn, model good behaviour that influences their team and their team’s team (depending on the size of the organisation!).
A good workplace culture exists when there’s a clear vision, people feel safe and respected and where hard work and career fulfilment are regarded in equal regard.
While maintaining a positive workplace culture has never been more challenging than in our pandemic-impacted world, it’s also never been more important for attracting and retaining staff.
Take action and enhance your workforce
With a significant shortage of staff in both child care and aged care sectors, small businesses and senior management in larger ones, have a great opportunity to entice high quality workers to join their organisations and stay in them.
Training, upskilling, a fresh approach to recruitment and harnessing a positive workplace culture can all make a big impact.
Catalyst delivers leading education in child care and aged care across Australia. For more information about working with us and helping your workforce reach its full potential, get in touch today.