From education to employment

Calls for colleges and NHS to partner to tackle health and care workforce crisis and boost local jobs

The College of the Future

@AoC_info Calls for colleges and #NHS to partner to tackle health and care workforce crisis and boost local jobs 

 Further investment is needed in colleges if the Government is to stand a fighting chance of tackling the significant workforce vacancies across the NHS and social care and taking forward its levelling up ambitions.

In a new report out today, the NHS Confederation and the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, are calling for “employer hubs” to be set up across England to bring together local NHS organisations, including hospitals and general practices, with their further education colleges to collaborate on courses and a pipeline for the local recruitment of health and care staff across a range of professions.

The hubs would focus on supporting local people to enter or progress careers in health and care, including through recruitment, upskilling and retraining, and in doing so, tackle local workforce shortages, which can vary considerably across the country.

Integrated care systems in England would play a key role in these hubs by establishing a coherent approach to bringing the college voice into their strategic system workforce planning.  

Workforce is one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS as it resumes patient services that had to be paused as part of the initial response to coronavirus, while preparing for winter and the possibility of further outbreaks of the disease. There are around 90,000 NHS vacancies, on top of more than 120,000 in social care.

In its joint publication, Creating the workforce of the future, the NHS Confederation and the Independent Commission on the College of the Future call on the Government to:

  • Invest £5m over two years to pilot employer hubs in each of the seven NHS regions in England to help NHS and care organisations’ recruitment and training,
  • Support the creation of a Health and Care College Council in England, with £2m funding over three years to create a national council to promote, develop and embed the essential contribution of colleges in education and training pipelines in England, and,
  • Embed the role of colleges in the local delivery of the national NHS People Plan, which was published in July.

Danny Mortimer 100x100Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, and chief executive of NHS Employers, said:

“The Government’s commitment to level up the country, tackle regional inequalities and solve the workforce crisis across health and social care will fall flat without targeted action to improve supply including investment in colleges to support local upskilling, retraining and recruitment into these vital roles.

“Over the course of the pandemic, the spotlight has shone bright on the hard work and dedication of key workers, highlighting how essential they are to the health and wealth of their communities. The pandemic has also starkly highlighted a number of underlying issues, which if we are to attract more people into NHS and social care roles, must be addressed without delay.”

Amanda Melton, Commissioner for the Independent Commission on the College of the Future and Principal and Chief Executive of Nelson and Colne College Group, said:

“Colleges are a key education and training route for key workers and the recommendations in this report provide an opportunity for them to do even more. We need to develop the relationship between colleges and the NHS to best meet serious workforce challenges.

“The role and contribution of colleges within the education and skills system, and specifically in the minds of large employers such as the NHS is all too often poorly understood. With these recommendations, we have an opportunity to unlock their potential to develop strong and sustainable pathways into NHS careers for local people using tangible steps. 

“During the COVID-19 crisis we have seen college students and staff volunteering for the NHS and in care homes to support their communities. The work of colleges up and down this country helps to improve health through the education and wrap around support they deliver for their students and communities.

“The recommendations set out in this report are priorities that should be taken, but wider reform is needed for colleges for them to deliver for people, employers and communities. We look forward to continuing to work with the UK Government as they set out their plans for Further Education White Paper in England later this year. Whilst this report focuses on England, as a Commission we will explore opportunities for taking forward the themes in this report in the context of the four nations.”

david hughes 100 x100David Hughes, Chief Executive of Association of Colleges, said:

“The pandemic has thrown a clear spotlight on sectors of the economy which we all rely on and often take for granted. The NHS is at the forefront of that, of course. Even before the crisis, there was work to do to improve skills and pathways for viable and secure careers and opportunities in the country’s most treasured public service. Now it is even more pressing. The ‘Creating the workforce of the future’ plan is for stronger partnerships, systems and relationships. It sets simple steps which can be taken, building on what we know works in pockets, for a new partnership between colleges and the NHS locally and nationally.  

“Colleges educate and train 2.2 million people every year, including many who move into the roles that have been recognised and valued during the pandemic. The focus of the pandemic can help us to develop clear pathways and progression routes for the people needed to fill more of these crucial jobs. An NHS – college relationship in every community will not only support the efforts for a speedy economic recovery, but also give those people in every community access to vital jobs and training in the health and social sector.”

Lawrence Barton 100x100Lawrence Barton, Managing Director of GB Training, said:

“‘Employer hubs’ to drive recruitment and address the skills crisis facing the health and social care sector are welcome but won’t prove the magic bullet some are hoping.  

“The skills-shortage affecting the industry is not a new phenomenon. There are an estimated 122,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) vacancies in the social care sector alone. For every ten jobs in the social care sector one is unfilled. Compare this to the three per cent vacancy rate pre-COVID for the economy as a whole. Our ageing population coupled with anticipated reductions in immigration post-Brexit means the situation is forecast to get worse not better.  

“Recruitment initiatives, such as “employer hubs” by themselves won’t work. The government needs to invest time and resources into changing young people’s perceptions, particularly of the social care industry by demonstrating to young people the vital role the industry has to play.”

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