Twenty Bay of Plenty beneficiaries are being given the chance to train as aged-care workers as part of a new government initiative.

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni yesterday announced the national rollout of an industry-partnership programme to eight regions, including the Bay of Plenty.
Sepuloni said the ministry has partnered with recruitment and staffing firm Medcall to train 160 beneficiaries for caregiving jobs across the country.

Twenty of the 160 training positions would be based in the greater Tauranga area, with Bay of Plenty clients referred to a speed dating-type expo on November 14.

"We have a rapidly ageing population and a shortage of workers in the aged-care industry so it makes sense that we partner with companies like Medcall to train New Zealanders for an industry that is growing fast and will continue to do so," Sepuloni said.

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She said a recent pay-equity settlement for care workers meant those working in the industry now had better pay, conditions, training opportunities and security.

The programme is also being rolled out in Canterbury, Waikato, Auckland, Wellington, Central, Southern and Nelson regions.

Simon Wallace, the chief executive of the NZ Aged Care Association, said he welcomed the Government's announcement.

"But 160 training positions is just not enough and currently in our aged-care sector we will need at least 1000 extra carers for each and every year for the next decade," he said.

Forecasts indicate that between 12,000 and 20,000 extra residents would need aged residential care by 2026, he said.

Wallace said given the looming shortfalls of carers, being able to employ migrant workers and have a clear career pathway to help attract quality staff was crucial.

He has renewed calls for the Government to remove the three-year stand-down period for essential skills visa holders.

Rotorua Age Concern manager Rory O'Rourke said he was pleased by the Government's move but 160 positions across eight regions were well short of what would be needed to respond to the looming aged-care sector "crisis".

Rotorua Grey Power president Miriam Ruberl said this was a "positive move" by the Government which addressed some of the concerns raised by Grey Power and others in the sector.

Devonport Palms rest home and residential care owner Peter Ayson said he agreed with Simon Wilson that pay equity was only one of the issues of concern in the sector.

"Anything that is being done by the Government to address these concerns is a positive move and 160 new positions is a good start.

"But I have owned Devonport Palms for 13 years and right now it's quite difficult to attract quality staff and we need more migrant workers to help fill those gaps," he said.

Sepuloni said she would look to increase the numbers of positions year-on-year as long as this programme kept achieving results.

Key facts about the new aged-care sector training programme:

- Aims to deliver 160 more caregiving jobs nationwide.

- Partnership training programme between the Ministry of Social Development and

recruitment firm MedCall.

- Will be rolled out in Canterbury, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Auckland, Wellington, Central, Southern and Nelson regions.

Source: MSD