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CARING KIND: Sandy Pronk is loving her new career in aged care.
A Young woman who made a mid-life career switch to an industry where jobs are plentiful and the work rewarding has declared it the “best decision I’ve ever made”.
Sandy Pronk has had a career rich in diversity – including as a coffee shop owner, dairy farmer and service station manager – but a desire to give back to the older generation prompted another career change last year when she enrolled in a Certificate III in Individual Support – Aged Care at TAFE NSW Young.
So intense is the demand for aged care workers in regional NSW, Ms Pronk was offered a role as an aged care worker at an aged care facility in Boorowa within three months of starting the course.
A submission to last year’s Federal Senate inquiry into the future of Australia’s aged care industry by Leading Aged Services Australia found the workforce would have to increase from 350,000 workers to 1.3 million by 2050 to meet surging demand.
Ms Pronk, a grandmother of five herself, said the mid-life career change was the best professional move of her life.
“It had always been in the back of my mind to work in aged care and I just thought, I’ve got about 10 years left in my working life, why not do something I really enjoy?” Ms Pronk said.
“To be able to treat older people with the respect and dignity they deserve is very rewarding.”
Ms Pronk said learning from the expert aged care teachers at TAFE NSW ensured she was job-ready the moment she first clocked on.
“That one-on-one, face-to-face contact with teachers who have had so much experience in the industry was invaluable,” she said. “I was 56 when I started studying but I loved it; I just thrived.”
Ms Pronk has recently commenced a Certificate IV in Leisure and Health at TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga to help her upskill further after being promoted to Activities Officer at Mt St Joseph’s in Young.
TAFE NSW Young Aged Care Teacher Carolyn Bailey said the local aged care sector was “crying out” for skilled workers and it wasn’t unusual for students to be offered jobs while still studying.
“This career really suits people who are caring by nature and willing to spend time to talk to older people,” she said. “It’s important to remember they were once young too and they have so much life experience and knowledge.”
Ms Bailey said the Certificate III Individual Support (Ageing) was a 12-month course that offered a blend of face-to-face and online learning, with students attending classes in person one or two days a week.
To find out more about studying aged care at TAFE NSW for semester one, phone 13 16 01 or visit www.tafensw.edu.au.
Media contact: Daniel Johns, TAFE NSW Media and Communications – Business Partner, 6938 1441, mobile 0477 722 428.