Apprentices key to filling gap in health and social care workforce


Jason Whitehouse, Head of Health and Social Care at training provider Realise, investigates how apprenticeship schemes, other training and competitive pay can help address staffing issues in health and social care settings.

With growing concerns about recruiting and retaining staff in social care settings, the need to train new staff and upskill existing colleagues has never been greater.

When it comes to recruiting and retaining staff in social care settings, the UK is facing something of a perfect storm.

The impact of Brexit

The effects of Brexit on the sector have been well documented. 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. The problems have been magnified by the pandemic, through people having restrictions on the number of care settings they can work in, the requirements of self-isolation policies and now the looming November deadline of mandatory Covid-19 vaccination for care workers.

Recent findings

The statistics paint a grim picture. The latest Skills for Care report shows around 105,000 vacancies being advertised in the sector on an average day, while staff turnover rates remain high at 28.5 per cent in 2020/21.

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.

The tide can be turned and, for that to happen, workforce reform is essential and must happen now. At the heart of that must be extensive training and development opportunities to deliver the care needed and help wages compete with other sectors.

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.

Quality work-based learning programmes are available at all levels, from Prepare to Work in Adult Social Care Level 1 through to Leader in Adult Care Level 5.

Jason Whitehouse, Realise, head of health and social care

What can we do?

This shows that we need a long-term plan that focuses on investing in employees and creating opportunities.

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.

Quality work-based learning programmes are available at all levels, from Prepare to Work in Adult Social Care Level 1 through to Leader in Adult Care Level 5.

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.

To view the article on ‘The Carer’ website click here

Find out more

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