Professional Comment

Bridging the Gap – Creating New Talent Pathways for the Social Care Sector

By Geraldine Donworth, Industry Manager for Health, Care and Childcare at City & Guilds Group

While the Chancellor failed to commit to much needed sup- port for the Social Care sector in the Spring Budget, he did man- age to paint a concerning picture of Covid-19’s impact on the UK economy and the labour market. As we’ve seen reported in the news, with so many businesses and sectors facing financial difficulty, and many people having already lost their jobs in the fall- out, unemployment rose to 5.1% in January 2021, translating to around 1.74 million people in the UK now without work – which is of course worrying.

But in the face of this adversity, there’s also an opportunity for both the social care sector and job seekers to move onwards and upwards.

Indeed, while the pandemic has exposed some of the issues our care sector has faced for a number of years, including insuffi- cient funding and under-resourcing, it has also shone a light on its compassionate and resilient workforce and how valuable it is to society. So, with awareness and gratitude for the work social care workers do at an all-time high, it seems like an opportune moment for the social care sector to recruit new talent, helping those displaced by the pandemic get back into meaningful work, while also plugging sector skills gaps.

It is likely that many are yet to see their employment affected by the pandemic – in particular those who work in the hospitality, travel and retail sectors – and many may need to look to other sectors to find work. Helpfully, their previous experience could mean they already have the transferable skills and personal attributes that could make them a great fit for a job in social care – such as interpersonal skills, customer service and respect for others.

And the sector needs new talent. It is estimated that 7.3% of adult social care roles in England were vacant in 2019/2020, equal to approximately 112,000 vacancies at any one time (Skills for Care, October 2020).

Meanwhile, retention also remains a challenge. In the 12 months before October 2020 in England, the average turnover rate was around 30.4%.

However, while the sector does need talent, it also needs the right talent. And this means that new recruits should not only possess key transferable skills, but they should also be aligned with core values, and under- stand what it means to be a social care worker. After all, social care is a highly skilled occupation where people’s lives and wellbeing are at stake. So, whilst there is an abundance of vacancies, the bottom line is that if we don’t get the very best people into these roles a high staff turnover rate will remain and, above all, people will not get the care they deserve.

It’s for this reason that City & Guilds has launched its Skills Bridges programme, designed to help those most impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic to recognise their transferable skills and transition into sectors where their skills are needed. We launched our first online course for the social care sector, Step into Social Care, in autumn 2020. Currently fully funded thanks to backing by Nesta, the course supports potential candidates to explore the sector, the values of care, what it’s like to work in social care and the types of jobs and progression opportunities that are on offer.

Ultimately, if we can prepare people for starting a career in the sector, they will be able to apply for jobs with a much better understanding of the role requirements and the skills they will need to work on. This understanding will make them more engaged, more valuable to employers, and more likely to stay in a role – meanwhile other potential candidates that are not the right fit can filter themselves out earlier on in the process.

As the aftershocks of Covid-19 are felt in the jobs market, the social care sector has an opportunity to take in skilled talent displaced by the pandemic and while plugging critical gaps in the sector.

We urge employers to act now: to encourage applications from the wider talent pool, help people discover jobs and career progression opportunities in the sector and ensure they have the talent they need for now and for the future.

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