Apprentices key to filling gap in social care workforce

Jason Whitehouse, head of health and social care at training provider, Realise, discusses how apprenticeship schemes, training and competitive pay can help address staffing issues in health and social care settings.

Even before the pandemic hit, it was clear to see there weren’t enough people working in the health and social care sector. Skills for Care workforce estimated that in 2019/20 there were around 112,000 vacancies and Covid-19 has put further strain on staffing, with people having to self-isolate and only being able to work in one location to limit the spread of the virus.

There is also no doubt in my mind that some workers are leaving the industry for jobs they perceive to provide better financial and career opportunities. I’ve heard instances where people working in our sector have considered retail jobs as an attractive option because of improving pay and fewer responsibilities in those types of roles.

Then there’s the issue of Brexit. The UK care sector has been reliant on European workers for decades but migration restrictions has forced many people to return to their native countries. In order to turn the tide, workforce reform is essential and must happen now. We need to see better pay, as well as more extensive training and development opportunities to compete with other sectors and deliver the care needed.

It’s vital that we make the health and social care sector appealing again and ensure that young people are fully trained so they have the best opportunity to have rewarding careers. A recent survey has found that nearly half of social care employers are currently operating with or below the bare minimum of skills required to run operations successfully.

The Open University research found significant skills shortages, with 10% of respondents reporting they lacked vital skills to run their operations successfully, and a further 34% saying they had the bare minimum of skills required among their teams. This shows that we need a long-term plan that focuses on investing in employees and creating opportunities.

person holding black and white device

I believe apprenticeship schemes, as well as training and development programmes, can help provide a natural career path to those who are new to the sector. From a business point of view, it makes sense for health and social care settings to take advantage of the current support available to them.

The worst-case scenario is that 95% of the cost of the apprenticeship training is funded by the government and, for larger organisations, it can be completely subsidised by the apprenticeship levy. The most exciting thing about our sector is that there’s a fast progression route with five different level courses that enables ambitious individuals to progress and develop quickly.

Here at Realise our dedicated team of expert trainers help engage and motivate existing staff and new recruits through our quality work-based learning programmes, from Prepare to Work in Adult Social Care Level 1 through to Leader in Adult Care Level 5.

These qualifications can offer a lot of different career options as well, such as mental health nursing, community nursing and counselling. The hard work can’t stop there though. Once apprenticeships are completed it’s crucial that staff are appreciated and rewarded with a competitive level of pay so that we keep pace with other sectors.

As well as keeping people in their current jobs, we need to encourage and inspire a new generation so that we have a continuous stream of talented workers coming through.

We can’t afford to wait any longer because it’s clear the sector needs support and I think these recommendations will tackle the most significant challenges currently facing the health and social care workforce.

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Photo Credit – engin akyurt


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