02/02/2015 - 16:38

Southcare seeks to boost diversity on boards

02/02/2015 - 16:38


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Southcare’s emerging leaders program is launching potential board careers for 20 young professionals each year.

LEADERSHIP: Alicia Curtis (left) and Nicky Howe identified a need for more young people on not-for-profit boards. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Southcare’s emerging leaders program is launching potential board careers for 20 young professionals each year.

It seems the nation’s ageing population is not only increasing demand for aged care services, but also leading to change in how the sector will be run as board members age.

To better enable boards of aged care entities deal with the challenges of an ageing population, Perth-based services provider Southcare is running its ‘emerging leaders’ program for the third year in 2015.

The program gives 20 young professionals exposure to board executives within the aged care and community not-for-profit sector, while providing training to prepare them for future board positions.

The idea is to inject younger, different perspectives into the boardroom to tackle the changes likely when the baby boomers among board members retire.

Southcare chief executive Nicky Howe co-developed the program in collaboration with program facilitator and mentor, Alicia Curtis.

Dr Howe identified the need for action to combat the two-pronged issue of an ageing society that will require services, and the ageing workforce employed in the industry.

Of the 240,445 workers in the aged care sector, half will be of retirement age in 15 years.

Meanwhile, ABS estimates show that the portion of the population over 65 years of age will increase from 14.6 per cent in 2014 to 20 per cent in 2044.

The number of people aged 85 and over is expected to be four times higher in 2044 than in 2014.

Across all sectors, on average, 61 per cent of board members on publicly listed boards across Australia are 50 years or older, with just 12 per cent under 40 years of age.

“We have got to work out new ways and new approaches to how we deliver services, and I see young people as being instrumental and key to that,” Dr Howe said.

“It’s about us wanting to create a world-class aged care and community sector for Australia.”

However, the program has been met with some resistance from board members at some organisations.

‘I have had people ring me and say ‘I disagree with you, there is a great risk to having young people on boards’, Dr Howe said.

“Well I think there is an inherent risk with any board member that you bring onto the board. I think there’s a bigger risk that we do not engage and we do not foster the talent of everybody in our society.

“It will bring down the average age on a (not-for-profit) board, and I think our boards will better reflect our society.”

Participants in the program come from a range of backgrounds and professions, including law, commerce and finance, which Dr Howe said would greatly benefit their future board opportunities.

“We’re engaging them to develop that strength skill in a complementary way, so that they can then go on a board and contribute,” she said.

Dr Howe said they would also bring a greater diversity to the boards in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and cultural background.

As part of the training program, participants will be exposed to mentors from the corporate and academic sectors, as well as not-for-profit groups.

They will also attend regular ‘Unconvention’ events throughout the year, the first of which will take place later this month.

The events feature half-day workshops for executives to discuss issues associated with board leadership.

Manning-based Southcare has developed the program in association with 25 community partner organisations including Silver Chain, Bethanie, MercyCare and Baptistcare.

Each community partner is asked for a minimum contribution of $5,000 annually for three years as the base entry point, although some commit much more.

They also contribute by way of provision of mentoring and internship opportunities on their own boards.

“What has emerged from this program that didn’t exist when we started is now what is known as a board traineeship,” Dr Howe said.

Some of the partner organisations have created a 12-month program whereby a young professional will sit the board and be exposed to board meetings, strategic planning and committees, but they are not voting members.



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