Australia needs to “turbo-charge” international recruitment

Last updated on 13 December 2023

The Australian Department of Health and Aged Care predicts a shortage of 85,000 nurses by 2025 and 123,000 nurses in Australia by 2030. [Source: Shutterstock]

International recruitment is set to play a pivotal role in aged care over the coming years as expected nurse and aged care worker shortfalls will coincide with a growing number of older people seeking aged care services.

Projections indicate aged care itself will be 110,000 workers short by 2030, while the overall care economy will be 123,000 nurses short. To combat these losses, Nicholas Lee, Senior Vice President and Country President for staffing and recruitment agency Adecco Australia & NZ, believes targeted international recruitment strategies need to be fast-tracked to overcome potential losses.

“We must move away from reactive solutions focused on ‘turning off immediate fires,’ and gear towards a proactive workforce planning model targeted at addressing the roots of the issue for a more sustainable and effective outcome,” Mr Lee told hello leaders

“Roughly 25% of the nursing workforce is going to retire in the next six years but they are not being replaced in the numbers needed. Australia urgently needs to turbo-charge targeted, compliant and serious recruitment from overseas.”

“We are in competition with markets such as Canada, USA and the UK, all of which are ahead of the curve. In the war on talent, Australia needs a quantum leap, fast. Otherwise, we risk a collapse of the Health and Aged Care sector.”

Nicholas Lee, Senior Vice President and Country President for Adecco Australia & New Zealand. [Source: Adecco]

This focus on international talent is certainly not new for aged care. However, it can be difficult to allocate internal resources to the recruitment process. For some, such as Infinite Care, the process is manageable

“With the growing pressure to have a sufficient workforce to support resident continuity of care, looking beyond Australian shores has become critical. This [recruitment of RNs] has added a rich tapestry of experience and backgrounds to our team and homes across Australia,” explained Infinite Care CEO, Luke Greive.

For others, there are more hurdles due to the growing administrative burden aged care reforms have created, plus the inbuilt challenges in procuring international staff. Adecco aims to overcome this by collaborating and partnering with aged care providers to streamline the international recruitment process.

“The process of bringing an overseas skilled professional is complex and expensive – from sourcing and attracting the right candidates, managing the immigration process, setting up life in Australia, and providing quality and continuous training and care for candidates,” Mr Lee said.

“Over 45 steps are involved for Stream B Internationally Qualified Nurses and the process complexity and duration extend beyond the capacity of an employer’s regular HR function.”

International interest in regional Australia grows

It’s no secret that regional and rural aged care providers are struggling the most to meet staffing requirements, including 24/7 Registered Nurse requirements. A small percentage have 24/7 RN exemptions until the end of June 2024 while others rely on alternative clinical care solutions such as more costly agency staff. 

Michelle Yawan Tolentino, Registered Nurse and Director of AustPhil Services said there is a clear need for investments that will bring qualified nurses into the aged care industry.

“The current staffing shortages have left many feeling overburdened and stretched thin, compromising their ability to provide optimal care. It is imperative that we listen to these voices, as they offer valuable insights into the day-to-day challenges faced by those on the frontlines of healthcare,” she said.

“By addressing staff shortages and implementing forward-thinking solutions and data-driven workforce planning, we can propel the health and aged care sector forward and build a resilient workforce that ensures the well-being of both patients and those who dedicate their lives to caring for them.”

There’s potential for this resilient workforce to further gravitate towards facilities that need the most help. The idea of community underpins aged care and so too the lives of many international workers moving to Australia. Mr Lee said the RNs they have interviewed often prefer rural or remote areas because of the lifestyle and lower cost of living. 

“A majority expressed that they prefer regional locations over metropolitan areas, as long as they have a small group of family/friends in the area and their children have access to schooling,” he said. 

“The use of data-driven candidate matching, identifying talents that have specific lifestyle preferences, and pre-aligning expectations before the transition is key. We also ensure talents are deployed in groups rather than in isolation.”

Adecco hopes to create a national network within the healthcare and aged care industries to better support employers through these targeted recruitment solutions.

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nicholas lee