If you enjoy helping people and want an interesting and varied career, have you considered community services? Choosing to work in a field that gives back to the community is a rewarding experience, satisfying not only your career goals but also your social conscience.
Community services encompass the provision of physical, social, emotional and community support, and are essential in ensuring the wellbeing and development of all community members from birth to death. Many jobs in the industry are related to care of the elderly, disabled or mentally ill.
Over the last five years the community services and health industry has been the second fastest growing industry, and is expected to take first place in the next five years. An ageing population and a trend towards de-institutionalising care and reducing lengthy hospital stays will make for plenty of opportunities in this growing sector.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has predicted that the proportion of Australians aged 65 or over will nearly double in the next 50 years. The ageing population has led to unprecedented demand on quality aged care services and a massive boom in employment prospects and job growth in the aged-care industry.
‘Already, across Australia some one million Australians receive either in-home or residential care from this massively growing and vitally important industry', says former CEO of Aged and Community Care Victoria, Gerard Mansour.
The aged care industry is critical in ensuring the mobility, equity, health and welfare of the elderly, with aged care services providing everything from assisting grocery shopping and bathing to full-time, in-house care. And with many government scholarships to entice students into aged care, the opportunities have never been greater.
‘The range of career choices are enormous – from nursing, where complex health care needs are met, to allied health professions such as physiotherapy, to personal carers, all the way through to finance, management and executive leadership', says Mansour.
One in five Australians – almost four million people – have a disability. While carers of people with disability are usually family members, there is a need for stronger support systems to assist people with disability and their carers.
‘It is important that support services are locally available so that people living with disability have easy access to the support they require in order to live their lives to the best of their potential and do the things most people take for granted', says a spokesperson for Disability Services Australia (DSA).
Statistics show that the rate of disability increases with age and this has begun to place increasing pressure on disability services. The Australian government provides a variety of services for people with disability and their carers to help them overcome any barriers they might have.
‘In the past the sector has been resourced by an energetic, dedicated but low-profile workforce. However, with increasing pressure for services, the disability sector is finding it more difficult to fill its vacancies, particularly entry-level positions such as support worker or intern psychologist', says a DSA spokesperson.
Every year one in five Australian adults will be affected by some form of mental disorder, highlighting the importance of accessible mental health community support programs. While some mental health disorders can be overcome or managed with treatment, some people can be severely affected by their mental illness to the point where they are psychiatrically disabled.
‘When someone has experienced mental illness it is often necessary, once they have sufficiently recovered, to re-establish community connections and day-to-day living skills. By being part of the community, mental health services help break down some of the stigma that surrounds mental illness', says Policy and Research Manager of Psychiatric Disability Services of Victoria (VICSERV), Wendy Smith.
Mental health is on the national agenda and awareness in the community is increasing, and that bodes well for those working in this growing sector.
Community services offer a flexible working environment, with over 60 per cent of work being on a part-time or contractual basis. Making a difference to people’s lives and the community, while being rewarding, can also help you develop life-long human skills such as empathy and patience and help you to understand social and ethical issues that can affect a person’s capacity to be involved in the community.
‘One of the most rewarding things about working in mental health is working alongside someone to help them achieve their goals. People affected by mental illness can and do recover, sometimes to lead different lives, and mental health workers get to experience this change and the sense of hope that drives it', says Smith.
With opportunities in entry-level positions to corporate areas, there are great opportunities for development and growth. While some roles require no qualifications, studying a certificate III or IV in aged care will give you a good foundation in the required skills and training and help you stand out from the competition.
‘Aged care is already one of the “new kid” careers of choice for young career aspirants. This industry offers opportunities for advancement, variety in career paths, and professional employers who provide support and active encouragement', says Mansour.
And this opportunity is apparent in all fields of community services. With skills shortages affecting the whole industry, now has never been a better time to jump on board.
‘With improved working conditions and wages, the disability services sector has become a real alternative to the public and private sector employment markets. It is attracting job seekers who are looking to see results for their efforts and who want to make a significant contribution to their community', says a DSA spokesperson.
Unlike other industries, there are job opportunities in community services across all areas of Australia: metropolitan, regional or rural and remote. Not only are the skills you learn in community services important to Australia, but they are transferable and in demand overseas as well, opening up the opportunity to work anywhere in the world.
If you want a job that makes a difference, browse our courses to help kick-start your career in community services.