From education to employment

College’s work with NHS to raise awareness of essential “behind the scenes” roles

A pilot course aimed at helping get people into work and plugging skills gaps in the health and social care sector got underway at Stockton Riverside College.

Putting a spotlight on the diversity of jobs that exist in a hospital setting, the college joined forces with North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to deliver the unique two-week programme.

With more than 30 people, aged from 19 to 63, signing up to pick up new skills, and more than double that number applying, the college’s skills for health and social care ambassador, Neil Vickery, said: “It just goes to show the interest that is out there for people wanting to work for the NHS, particularly in the wake of the pandemic and clapping for the health and care workers.

“But labour shortages do arise as people often don’t realise the diversity of jobs that exist in the NHS, not seeing beyond the frontline medical staff.”

He added: “Hospitals can be like their own little communities, with people working in every job you can possibly think of, from catering staff to gardeners.  All have an essential part to play.”

The bespoke 10-day course was created by the college working alongside the NHS Trust, with a particular focus on roles behind the scenes including facilities assistants, hospital porters and sterile services.

As well as teaching key employability skills for the health and social care sector, it offered the chance to pick up certificates in the likes of food hygiene and first aid. 

The pilot formed part of the college’s Skills for Health pledge – a commitment between the college’s that make up the Education Training Collective (Etc.), Hartlepool College of Further Education and the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to work in collaboration to tackle skills shortages, get people into work and upskill and reskill existing staff in the sector.

Hoping to kick start a career in care, Dean Oakshott was among the course pilot’s co-hort. The 32-year-old from Stockton said: “Having been a support worker to my mum for the last 10 years, officially speaking I have never had a job before, so that can make it quite hard when it comes to finding work.”

Recognising the transferable skills he has developed over the years, he explained: “This course offered an insight into the NHS and seemed a real step in the right direction.”

Amy Hodgson, 23, also from Stockton, signed up after finding herself out of work. Having previously worked in a call centre, she said: “For me, it was a chance to pick up new skills and see what jobs are out there.”

Nervous of the hospital environment, she explained this was a chance to face her fears head-on and broaden the employment opportunities open to her.

While at 59, and with a career that has taken in hospitality, admin, cleaning and retail, Susan Smitheringale, of Norton, said: “Any qualifications or additional experience you can get, can only be a good thing. It shows employers that you are willing to learn!”

Levi Buckley, chief operating officer of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “There are few careers as rewarding as health care.  Being part of the health and social care sector, in any capacity, is to play a positive role in people’s lives. We work hard but the rewards are huge.

“Our service to the community is highly respected and our camaraderie and support for each other is renowned. A career in health is a vocation and that’s why we’re proud to be part of the Skills Pledge with our partners the Education Training Collective and Hartlepool College of Further Education.”

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