Queenslanders now have more regional pathways to employment, thanks to a new partnership that will allow university students to stay in their home regions and earn while they learn.
Community care provider Comlink Australia and the University of the Sunshine Coast announced the collaboration that also aims to help address major workforce shortages in aged care.
Comlink Australia delivers bespoke services to support clients to live independently in their own homes and communities. Comlink Australia services more than 5,000 clients across Queensland, including Fraser Coast, Gympie, Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay.
UniSC Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Helen Bartlett said the partnership was a “fantastic alignment of regional community goals” that would benefit both students and clients.
Professor Bartlett said there was enormous demand for careers and employment that allowed people to remain living regionally.
“With the aged care sector facing a national shortage of 110,000 direct care staff over the next decade, it makes sense to work on closing this skills gap in our regions,” she said.
“Estimates suggest the industry could be short of 400,000 workers by 2050 if we continue doing things the way they have always been done.
“As two organisations with healthy ageing and regional development among our top priorities, we are creating a much-needed pathway for people in the regions to gain qualifications, and older residents to receive the best and most contemporary in-home care.”
The collaboration, which will begin initially at Fraser Coast and Gympie campuses with potential to expand over time, will allow students on-campus access to Comlink Australia’s industry expertise.
“This will provide opportunities for knowledge sharing on campus, and experience of client care delivery by specialist health and support staff, and to gain university qualifications across a range of health care professions,” Professor Bartlett said.
The opportunities will not be limited to students in nursing and aged care but extend to students across business, IT, accounting, marketing and more.
“We are excited to be able to offer regional students a range of opportunities to earn while they learn and stay living in their home regions,” she said.
Professor Bartlett, whose own research background is in aged care, said the initiative is an integral part of the university’s focus on health and ageing which includes research into healthy ageing, chronic disease and aged care.
Comlink Australia’s Chief Executive Dr Liam Mayo said the organisation provided in-home aged care, not in residential facilities.
“People can keep living in their own homes longer and we partner with them on that journey. This model has benefits for the economy, and for people’s health,” Dr Mayo said.
“As a community aged care provider, we also see ourselves as providing community development and workforce solutions, so we are working with the university to highlight pathways to employment, of which there are many.”
“For example, you could become a driver taking people to appointments or to do their shopping, and study at the same time, gaining qualifications and working towards your degree.”
Dr Mayo completed his PhD at UniSC with a focus on achieving better business outcomes while also tackling larger challenges such as funding, health and sustainability.
“My study provided me a very sophisticated lens through which to view the business environment to take the things we do have, innovate and reimagine and deliver a better future,” Dr Mayo said.
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