Care Training Gap Years?

Wendy Huston Seven young people learn ‘on the job’ about caring for the elderly in Kapiti

By Wendy Huston
CEO Kapiti Retirement Trust

It’s always hard to say goodbye but sometimes it can be a reason to celebrate. 

Recently, staff at the Kapiti Retirement Trust said goodbye to seven wonderful young people – Natalie, Roshana, Indy, Ewan, Leighton, Alana and Kirsty –who have spent the last 12 months,  as health care assistants in the Trust’s aged care hospital, The Lodge, at Sevenoaks.

So they spent their ‘gap’ year in paid employment in a vital social service.

What a pleasure it has been to have their many skills, enthusiasm and youth in the hospital. 

They have all left us to go on to tertiary studies. Six going to study a variety of health sciences –  nursing, vet nursing, and to med school — while one leaves us to go and study stage production. 

I can only think how much more they will have to offer their clients in the future with the skills they have had to use and develop during their time with us. 

Amongst these are patience, empathy, and an awareness that life is fleeting — and therefore all opportunities need to be taken to enjoy life. 

Also, they’ve learnt that it is often the little things that really count – a smile, sharing a laugh and taking time to listen.  

We have all read the demographics which show the numbers of us who will reach very old age are going to balloon over the next few decades.  It is also quite obvious that with a reduced birthrate there is going to be a reduced workforce there to support the aged. 

Questions are being asked as to where the necessary staff for aged care facilities are going to come from?  Whilst it is possible to bring in overseas migrants to do this work, wouldn’t it be great if some forward thinking politicians came up with a New Zealand-based solution?

Why shouldn’t young New Zealanders be encouraged to take up aged care as their ‘gap year,’ just as these young people did, before heading into tertiary study?

Surely it wouldn’t be hard to give a tertiary fees subsidy, a student allowance or some other incentive to encourage them to do this? 

Given the demand for places in such courses, perhaps it could even become a pre-requisite for all of those wanting to study health sciences? 

At least this way they would know what they were in for; and that any student loan was for something they were committed to completing. 

In the past, military service was a way of giving back to your country and those who participated gained skills that lasted throughout their lives.

A community-service gap year could offer similar benefits.