What the Pandemic Has Taught Us About Skills Gaps in Health and Social Care

By Nicole Bewley, Learning Curve Group (www.lcgonline.co.uk/carermag-skillsguarantee)

It has been highlighted in recent years that the skills gaps within health and social care are set to be at an all time high with increasing numbers of vacancies across the sector. Nicole Bewley, Director of Skills at one of the largest providers of health and social care training, Learning Curve Group, explores the true impact that Covid-19 has had on the sector and ways that employers can adapt.

I don’t think anyone can argue that the work of those across the health and social care sector has never been more appreciated. As Covid-19 has devastated care staff in many ways, it has also increased solidarity as our care workers across the country faced the crisis head on.

For many years, health and social care has been tarnished as low skilled and low paid. Although care workers have not been afraid to show the harsh realities of Covid, with long shifts wearing PPE and losing patients and residents who haven’t seen their families in months, clapping for carers and praise for key workers has arguably glamorised the sector. University applications to study nursing were reported to be at a record high in February, increasing by almost a third. The work that carers have been doing for centuries has been under the microscope for all to see, and whilst the sector is incredibly rewarding, I think it would be wrong to suggest that it isn’t equal- ly hard, both physically and mentally.

The Government launched a recruitment campaign to encourage people to re-skill and join the health and social care sector. Many sectors have been particularly hard hit from the pandemic; hospitality, aviation, travel and tourism, and it’s likely that they’ll take significantly longer to recover as we work through the easing of restrictions. With an aging workforce, and skills gaps left by brexit, if we don’t act now to fill vacancies, the sector is really going to struggle in the next few years.

As vacancies are left unfilled and we see an increasing strain on services as people are living longer, Skills for Care have estimated a need for 650,000 to 950,000 new adult social care jobs by 2035. Employers across the sector need to look at how they are going to bridge the gap, and upskilling and reskilling is going to be key. Supporting individuals to transition into the sector would support the recruitment drive, however, a holistic approach to their training to ensure they have the right skills and knowledge for the job is vitally important.

The government has announced a range of incentives for employers looking to support their staff with high quality training, and the Lifetime Skills Guarantee could be a lifeline for care providers looking for free training. Aimed at levelling up adults without an existing level three qualification, the Lifetime Skills Guarantee initiative from the government offers funding for a range of health and social care courses to individuals looking to progress their knowledge over and above the already free Level 2 qualifications.

This is extremely welcome news from the government, as it means that employers in the care sector can really focus on upskilling any staff who aren’t already qualified to level three, and also recruit new members of staff who might not have any care experience, but want to get into the sector, narrowing skills gaps and providing better overall care.

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