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Why apprenticeships are crucial for tackling workforce shortages across the care sector

Steve Sawyer

By Steve Sawyer, managing director, Access Health, Support and Care

Care providers across the country have, unfortunately, become accustomed to workforce shortages. As a recent report from the Health and Social Care Committee on health and social care workforce showed, 95 per cent of care providers are struggling to recruit staff and 75 per cent of providers are finding it hard to retain their existing workforce. This is compounded by the fact that these roles are typically paid less than 80 per cent of the wider economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further affected the sector’s ability to recruit and retain staff – during this time, the working conditions of social care workers suffered, as they battled with long hours, restrictive working conditions, and an increased risk to their health.

And on the ground, these staff shortages can lead to increased frontline pressures, burnout and job dissatisfaction. They can also impact the quality of individual care – in October 2022, the CQC’s State of Care report said that in the first three months of 2022, 2.2 million hours of homecare could not be delivered because of insufficient workforce capacity.

So, how can we encourage more people to pursue what can be an extremely rewarding career in care and stay in the sector?

Apprenticeships

If we are going to reverse the trend and increase the percentage of people joining and staying in social care, we need to incentivise careers in the sector and create a positive care home environment for people to work in. Doing so will improve job satisfaction – a huge factor in the departure of many health and social care workers, as reported by the Nuffield Trust.

At the Access Group, one of the ways that we are promoting career pathways in social care is through the government’s Apprenticeship Levy Scheme, which aims to encourage work-based training in particular sectors. Working with 75,000 customers across commercial and non-profit sectors, we invest the money into our own apprenticeship schemes as well as sharing it with organisations from across health and care, supporting them to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

The Health, Support and Care division (HSC) of the company has invested £100,000 since March 2022, alleviating workforce pressures by enabling 86 health and social care apprenticeships across the country. Benefactors of the financial support include residential care home providers, Burrow Down Support and Home2Home with Care; and domiciliary care provider Hamble Valley Care, alongside a range of other care providers using the additional resource to enhance skills of new and existing staff, thus providing them with more opportunities to advance their careers.

As we see it, apprenticeships play a crucial role in improving job satisfaction and, ultimately, staff retention, with unhappy and unfulfilled staff more likely to move into other roles. They also motivate the next generation of talent to pursue a career in care, encouraged by the support and opportunity to upskill in the sector.

Admittedly, apprenticeship schemes aren’t a silver bullet to the ever-growing workforce crisis, but they are a positive step in the right direction to support a care home sector that we all value and depend on.

Find out more about how the Access Group supports various initiatives here.

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