Passing the baton

Knowing that the organisation he helped found is changing the lives of disadvantaged students is Professor David Hayward proudest achievement, as he retires from his role of Director of the Future Social Service Institute.

‘Our retention rate is up about 85 per cent in a very heavily disadvantaged cohort by and large with incredible diversity. We have students from various parts of the world, from China, Africa, Australia,’ David says.

‘They’re going to get a job, because there’s job shortages everywhere in the social services sector, and then they’re going to have a career because that is where the growth is for the next 50 years. And that’s a wonderful story.’

David, who is also retiring from his role of Senior Advisor, Public Policy and the Social Economy at RMIT University, came up with the idea for an institute that would focus on preparing the future workforce for the social services sector after reading the Victorian Government’s budget papers.

‘I stumbled across a graph that looked at the projected growth in the workforce over the next five years,’ he says.

‘To my amazement, the fastest growing segment, by a massive margin, was health care and social assistance. Yet Labor’s election manifesto in the 2014 election, which had job growth as their priority, treated it as a welfare issue.

‘They hadn’t thought about careers, employment, industries, the economy, productivity. It was thought of in terms of cost and consumption and welfare,’ he says.

Already heavily involved with the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS), David suggested to the VCOSS Board that it was time to move the sector from the welfare chapter to the economy chapter. Once the funding was secured, and the partnership between VCOSS and RMIT was set, David took on the role of Acting Director of FSSI.

At that time, he was on the University Council and Chaired RMIT’s Academic Board – its most powerful academic committee – which put him in a sound position to smooth the way for the innovative entity.

‘The support from the highest level of the university for what we’re doing has been truly magnificent. There is no other university in the country where a Vice-Chancellor and the council has shown such a commitment to social innovation.’

David says he is very pleased with the transformation of an idea into an institute that has grown to the point it was able to train 250 students in 2018 with a staff of 26, including researchers and teachers who co-design the curriculum with the participants.

‘It brings some incredible challenges and such marvellous innovation that you can’t help but be impressed,’ David says.

‘I’ve just had the most fantastic meeting with one of the most remarkably talented teachers we’ve got about how we might be able to include somebody with an acquired brain injury in our teaching workforce next year.

‘We have had a resident of a nursing home coming in to help co-design a curriculum for a better certificate qualification. This has led to us thinking about that resident , who has a social work qualification and lives in a nursing home, becoming part of the teaching workforce.

‘Who better to be teaching students about aged care than aged care residents; but who thinks about that? Well, we do.’

VCOSS CEO Emma King says David will be missed for his ‘phenomenal’ contribution to VCOSS and for his great ideas that have assisted the social services sector overall to grow and prosper.

‘He is constantly putting our sector out there.’

Prof David Hayward will formally retire on December 31 but you may still spot him around campus next year in an advisory role. The name of the new director will be announced shortly.