New starters find joy in career switch

This time last year, Aaron Reynolds was working in a construction job.

Now he has found his calling, caring for older men living with dementia.

The 22-year-old from Kitchener is one of nine local people who are part of the latest intake of trainee care workers at Calvary Cessnock Retirement Community.

Aaron says his new career is enriching the lives of others – and his own.

“I did a couple of years in construction but found out that really wasn’t my cup of tea,” said Aaron, who is working in the specialist men’s memory support unit. “I decided to give this a go and haven’t looked back.

“There’s more people skills involved than in construction. I like finding out the little things that the residents like and will make things better for them and cheer them up. Just by walking in and saying gidday or having a joke – it just lights up their day.

“There is a lot to learn from older people and their experiences.”

He’s learned different ways to connect with people and says he’s also become more organised. “I didn’t have too much of that before,” he admits with a grin.

Aaron is undaunted about joining a female-dominated industry and says he would recommend it to other young men.

“You’re improving the lives of others and helping them, but they can do so much for you and help you grow as a person. The more you get better at your job, the more you get better at your own life really.”

He may be the only male in the class of 2021, but Aaron is not the only trainee to change careers.

Cassandra Parkinson is a qualified chef and worked at Cessnock Leagues Club for many years until she had her son, now aged 4. After a break from the industry, she began working in the kitchen at Calvary a couple of years ago, as her mother had done.

She watched the care staff as they went about their work with residents and decided she wanted to be one of them.

“There was a joy of a simple sit down with the residents, having a conversation, sharing a laugh, or dancing with the residents. Even if it’s just a conversation and even if they don’t remember it later, you know you have put a smile on their faces for that five minutes.”

Aleesha Norris finds a similar joy in her new role.

“It’s rewarding – you actually feel as though you’ve accomplished something for the day and you’ve made somebody else happy,” she says. “You’re giving someone else joy by helping them and making their life easier.”

When she returned to the workforce after having her third daughter, Aleesha was looking for something that extended her more than her previous community care role but was still in the aged care sector.

“Older people have got a lot to share. They have lots a lot of stories, and they’re interesting. They have a lot to offer. You wouldn’t believe some of the stories they tell you of what they have done in their past and what jobs they’ve had. It’s a real eye opener.”

Calvary Cessnock’s traineeship leads to a Certificate 3 in Community Services Individual Support that qualifies participants to work as aged care services employees. It combines practical, hands-on experience and on-site classes covering aspects such as dementia care, legal and ethical aspects, supporting independence and wellbeing, and infection control and prevention, amongst others.