Where do most people in Australia and across the Illawarra work? Mining? Manufacturing? No, it’s in health and community services.
Around 1.3 million people nationally are employed in health and community services organisations, and we’re growing fast. We’ll need a 25 per cent increase in our workforce by 2025.
These are the people who work with the most vulnerable members of our community. They work with children who are in danger of harm, with homeless people, young people, people who are dealing with addictions, or living with mental illness; they work with people with disabilities, with the frail aged, and with victims of violence.
It’s probably fair to say that almost everybody, at some stage, will turn to the community sector for support.
And yet consider this. Recent research by the Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council (CS&HISC) shows there is currently only one mental health worker for every 420 people who need help with their mental health. Or one worker for every 95 people who need disability services.
Something that will affect us all as our population ages is the increase in demand for aged care services. We’re going to need more aged care workers. By 2050, 16 per cent of Australians will need aged care services, and we need to be considering now who’s going to provide those for us.
It’s time to be promoting the community services industry as a career choice for our young people, because there are clearly going to be opportunities.
And let’s not forget that we don’t just need the next generation of care staff, counsellors, youth workers, and other direct care providers; we also need the managers, administrators, bookkeepers, and human resource specialists.
Community services workers are a great asset to our communities. They work tirelessly to make life easier for people who are doing it tough.
They are the quiet achievers of our workforce – and these figures show they are going to need reinforcements soon.
Nicky Sloan is CEO of The Illawarra Forum. The Forum supports community organisations, promotes expertise and innovation in community development, fosters industry development and advocates for social justice.