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Older workforce needs fresh blood

OURS is an aging population, a fact that brings with it a double impact on health care and social services.

As older workers move into retirement, they take with them decades of valuable experience, reducing the collective skill set of the labour force.

As they move into retirement and then old age, they put their own pressures on the sector as their demand for services increases - demand which must be met by a smaller labour force.

Given that two-pronged pressure, there is some relief in the continued strong employment growth in the sector over the past decade. It's the largest employing industry in the country, accounting for about 12% of total national employment, or some 1.4 million workers.

More than half a million of those workers are located outside state capitals.

Over the five years to November 2017, according to the Department of Employment, employment in the sector is expected to continue to increase strongly, adding more than 177,000 new jobs - more than one-fifth of the total new jobs expected over the same period.

The industry's workforce is female-dominated - most of the largest occupations have relatively small proportions of males employed. It also has a slightly higher proportion of older workers than the average across all industries.

Workers in the health care and social assistance industry are generally highly skilled. Most workers hold post-school qualifications, reflecting the requirements for entry to most of the occupations that are key to the sector.

A high proportion of workers are professionals (almost twice the average for all industries).

Nurses could be one of the most heavily impacted industry subsectors as older workers move into retirement.

The average age of Australia's nurses is increasing, with nearly one in four now aged 55 or older.

There are plenty of nursing graduates ready to step up into the positions vacated through retirements, but while they can bring untapped enthusiasm, they bring little to no experience.

How to combat that talent drain remains a large issue facing the healthcare sector, but one that ensures plenty of opportunities for those looking to start a career in the industry.

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