Apprenticeships Will Be Key To Safeguarding The Future Of The Care Sector

By Victoria Sylvester, Director of Acacia Training (acaciatraining.co.uk)

Two news reports sit side by side. One is about the lost generation of young people, at risk of being left behind because they can’t get a job. The other is about the projected growth in the number of jobs in the social care sector by 32% to 2.17 million by 2035.

On paper it seems like a good fit – millions of people looking to embark on a new career or retrain after being made redundant and an industry in desperate need of skilled workers. So why isn’t it straight- forward to connect the two?

The main challenges are attracting people to the sector and giving them opportunities to progress and have successful careers. But changing perceptions of the sector, combined with the government’s new apprenticeship incentives, have provided a fantastic opportunity to change this for good.

Apprenticeships are a great way for employers to recruit the right people, grow talent and develop a skilled workforce. Incentives are fantastic for employers so it’s encouraging to see the government tak- ing note of this. Under the scheme, businesses will receive £2,000 for each apprentice under 25, and £1,500 for those older than 25, between August this year and February 2021.

Ensuring the process is straightforward and accessible will be fundamental to making it work and there are still some barriers. For example, most employers need to make a 5% contribution and while this seems small, it’s still a hurdle. To truly encourage employers to take on apprentices, every single barrier should be removed, even for just a short period of time while we work through the Covid recovery phase.

The government’s new Kickstart Scheme and funding for traineeships will also provide opportunities for young people to get into the workplace. The key is to have a smooth transition process by working with providers who have strong employer links, which will enable trainees to progress on to apprenticeships. Collaborative working on every level has never been more important – done right this can have a greater impact and we need to work at pace to get everything moving quickly.

Although there are challenges, this new raft of measures is a great step in the right direction. But it will only benefit the care sector significantly if we can attract people in the first place.

We hear it time and time again: no one wants to work in the sector, care staff are unskilled, there’s no career progression. Finally, in one of the most difficult periods that we’ve ever faced, these misconceptions have been challenged.

Putting the tragedy aside for a moment, Covid-19 has raised the sector’s profile and demonstrated how important and valuable it is. It has brought to the forefront real stories of people on the front line, as opposed to the negative headlines we often see around the care sector. Overall, the rhetoric has been much more positive and more people are seeing it as an incredibly rewarding place to work with progression opportunities.

This has already attracted new people to the sector. The number of new nursing applicants between January and June was 63% higher than the same period last year, according to UCAS. We continued to recruit apprentices during lockdown and delivered £100,000 of intensive training, funded by Skills for Care, to increase staffing capacity in care homes in response to Covid-19. This included induction training for new staff, volunteers and those returning to care roles. Learners ranged in age from 18 to their 60s and this shows the level of interest in the sector and the number of new entrants.

Now we need to develop a strategy around how we can attract and retain more people, so we can safe- guard the future of the sector. Now is the perfect time to continue with the good work we’ve seen over the last few months and to build on the motivation and engagement with the sector. We need to take advantage of these promising new government incentives, keep that positivity moving and keep the sector looking attractive. Let’s not lose the ground that has been made in this short space of time.

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