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How to expand your skills while working as an independent support worker

Teenage student with book and laptop preparing for exam at cafe bar.

If you are working independently as a support worker, it’s important to be proactive about improving your chances of finding work. One of the ways to stand out to prospective clients is to enhance your skill set. But you don’t necessarily have to take time out from work to do it. Here are our top tips for fitting your studies around your business without burning out.

If you haven’t read it yet, make sure you check out our tips from the Mable team about how to get the most out of the platform. In it, we talked to Mable’s Community Engagement Queensland State Manager, Jodie, who told us why workers who are actively looking to enhance their skill sets have the greatest opportunities.

“Mable’s advanced search filters now allow clients to search for workers based on specific skills and years of experience. If someone can demonstrate a focus in a particular area like dementia care, or person-centred support, it can really give them an edge.”

Remember – as you’re working for yourself, any training that you do relating to your business may be tax deductible. If you’re juggling a full schedule, taking on extra homework might seem a little daunting. Here are our tips for how to manage it.

Where you can look for online learning opportunities

The Mable Learning Hub is a free online training resource with over 140 courses available from reputable providers including National Disability Services (NDS), Dementia Australia, Autism Explained, La Trobe University and Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

These courses are a great way for independent support workers on Mable to upskill and expand their client bases.

National Disability Practitioners are a leading association for disability practitioners, with a community of more than 10,000 members. They offer a members learning hub where they have compiled webinars and a range of online courses offered by institutions around the world. They offer courses in soft skills such as ‘engaging families’ and ‘a human rights approach to working with disability’ alongside a Continuing Professional Development program which can earn you a certification.

TAFE also offer a number of courses in aged care and disability support which can be taken online and earn you an accreditation which will enable you to offer personal support.

Expanding your knowledge doesn’t have to cost the earth. Open University offer a range of free courses, like this one on Understanding Autism. While they don’t come with an accreditation, they can demonstrate your interest in and commitment to a particular area of study. If you’re looking to embark on a degree, Open Universities Australia provides a range of degrees from Australian Universities in an online format. As reported here in The Guardian, it’s a flexible learning model that enables study for many whose circumstances would otherwise preclude them.

Studying online doesn’t mean that you miss out on the human interaction. Online forums and social networks offered alongside many distance or online learning courses provide valuable opportunities for community building.

Get in focus

If you are looking at specialising in a particular focus area, there are a range of options online in places you may not expect. Beyond Blue’s Professional Education to Aged Care (PEAC) e-learning program aims to improve the detection and management of anxiety and depression experienced by older adults in residential and community aged care settings.

National organisations can be a great resource for finding personal development opportunities. If you are looking at specialising in dementia care, Dementia Australia’s Centre for Dementia Learning offers accredited training, online resources and podcasts and videos via their subscription services.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) like those available at EdX offer free online courses from most of the top ranking global universities. Founded by Harvard and MIT, edX is a global nonprofit that’s committed to removing the barriers of cost, location and access of traditional education. You can find a range of different courses available over time, like this one on ‘Intellectual Disability Around the World’ from the University of Queensland. Participants can take the course for free, or add a certificate on completion for a fee.

Avoid burnout by leaning on your buddies

When you embark on a new business venture, it can be difficult to know when to say no. You’re just starting out, so every new client could be the start of a rewarding, long-term relationship. It’s important to ensure you don’t take on too much if you’re undertaking further studies. This is where building your network of Mable buddies can come in handy. If you’re asked by a valued client to cover a shift but are worried about an impending study deadline, having a platform buddy who can step up when you need it can provide a much-needed life raft.

Keep your availability updated

Mable allows you to set and change your availability whenever you need to, so if your study schedule has you feeling a little overwhelmed, you can take some time out from the platform so you don’t receive any job requests. Make an appointment with yourself for designated study days or hours and ensure your Mable availability reflects those times that you’re not available for work.

If you’re still considering becoming an independent support worker, did you know you can sign up and start creating your account for free today. Or, click through here to find out more about how you can work independently supporting clients in your local area.

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