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After a few years working in hospitality, Caitlin Henderson decided to change paths heading towards a career in the aged care sector. She admits being close to her grandparents inspired her.

“Since I was little, I’ve always wanted to do nursing. Before that though, I wanted to have a feel for what nursing would be like and wanted to get some experience,” shares Caitlin.

She applied to become a carer at Golden Age Rest Home in 2016. “When I got employed, formal learning wasn’t really what I needed at that stage. Being able to do the NZ Certificate in Health and Wellbeing Level 3 on-the-job was a great way for me to continue learning and gain experience.”

Two years later, Caitlin got offered another role within the rest home. “I covered for the usual Diversional Therapist for a week when she went away and my clinical manager at the time thought I would be a good candidate for the Apprenticeship in Diversional Therapy offered by Careerforce.”

The apprenticeship programme leads to the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Community Facilitation) at Level 4 developed by industry training organisation, Careerforce. It is designed to recognise and enhance the skills of those new and experienced in the role. Upon completion, Diversional Therapists will meet the qualification and competency requirement to become registered with the New Zealand Society of Diversional and Recreational Therapists.

Caitlin says, “I found the apprenticeship was perfect for me. It has already led to some very good outcomes for me and my clients. As part of my module tasks, I managed to create new connections for my organisation.”

Caitlin Henderson and resident at Golden Age Rest Home

“We had a resident who wasn’t socialising as much and so I tried to find out her interests. Turns out that she enjoyed knitting, so we made peggy squares for her so she could knit. Word caught on around the rest home that knitting has started up and suddenly there’s a whole knitting group and this resident is in and amongst it, socialising and having fun, which was awesome to see.”

“We then sew the peggy squares together to make a blanket which we now take to the SPCA for the cats to take away with them to their new home.”

She says that just from that one module task, it created opportunities, partnerships, and at the same time contribute to the community.

Caitlin says working in aged care doesn’t feel like work and encourages young people to bring their energy and consider starting a career here. “It is amazing to get to know all the unique residents and create programmes which make them feel a bit more at home and included – it is very rewarding. It’s a bit like having another family when I go to work.”

Caitlin’s journey is one of many examples of how a career in aged care could lead to many opportunities. With the rising number of New Zealanders over retirement age, there is increasing demand for workers to join the aged care sector. Learning pathway opportunities like on-the-job training and apprenticeships for new entrants into the sector can support them to earn while they learn.

For Caitlin, the future is exciting, “I think whatever I decide to do from now, the learning that I’ve got from the apprenticeship is going to help me so much. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to do it. It has been absolutely amazing.”