How to make apprenticeships work for your care organisation

Jill Whittaker OBE, managing director at Connect2Care, explores how managers within the care sector can maximise training and development opportunities to alleviate immense pressure caused by skills shortages.

Jill Whittaker, Connect2Care

Staffing issues are not a new challenge for the industry, but it’s clear the added strain from recent world events has exacerbated the problem even further. Connect2Care recently conducted independent research to explore this issue further and the results couldn’t be starker: every single person said they were struggling to retain staff.

This immense pressure caused by staff shortages is causing a considerable impact on operations and team morale. It’s time to turn the tide on this trajectory.

A great tool at a care manager’s disposal is training and education. Opportunities like apprenticeships are key to attracting ambitious individuals to organisations and — importantly — keeping them there by providing opportunities to progress. 

Yet despite this, we’ve seen that less than forty per cent of care organisations offer apprenticeships to employees at all career levels. Understanding the advantages and applications of flexible apprenticeship models is the first step to fully reaping the retention and recruitment opportunities on offer.  

Filling the skills gap 

Getting recruits through the door remains a top priority for many in the sector. Apprenticeships can assist with these efforts, providing a clear route into the industry for new starters where they can gain skills in a supported and structured manner.

However, apprenticeships aren’t only for those first entering the industry—there are courses available for all ages and career stages, right the way up to managers and leaders. Care managers should evaluate where skill gaps lie within their workforce and work closely with their employee base to understand who might be interested in upskilling or reskilling in these areas. This will help to fill the gaps from within as external hiring concerns persist. 

Meeting the needs of staff 

Increasingly, we are also seeing the demand for staff training changing as people’s view on work and what they expect from their jobs is shifting, particularly as a result of the pandemic. Ultimately, employees want to try new things, upskill and reskill, and have their value recognised. 

In the current staffing climate, it’s more important than ever for care managers to retain the talented individuals already in their organisation. Reacting to the workforce’s demand for training plays a big part in this. Our research has shown that nine in ten care sector employees say they would be more likely to stay in a role if their employer invested in their training from the outset.

Therefore, not only can care organisations reap the rewards of additional skills in their teams through apprenticeships, but this investment will also go a long way to fostering job satisfaction and loyalty. After all, getting recruits through the door will only make a significant difference if existing employees also choose to stay. 

Making apprenticeships work for you 

While many care operators appreciate the power that apprenticeships can have in the workforce, our research has shown that over a third are put off by the perceived time pressure of the programmes. But what if I said that there are ways to flex training around your organisation and learners’ needs?

There is a misconception that apprenticeships are a linear or formulaic approach to training. Yet, there are several flexible training options already available via apprenticeships and others in the pipeline that are being explored by the government. These offer access to career development via a model that suits the needs of the individual employee and the organisation as a whole.  

Take ‘accelerated apprenticeships’ as an example. These allow the employer to adjust the length of an apprenticeship for an individual who has existing relevant knowledge or skills, providing there’s a minimum programme time of twelve months. 

For instance, anyone new to care work who has a background in another healthcare role is likely to already have some of the essential skills needed in the sector and wouldn’t require as deep a level of training in this area.

Apprenticeships also are continuously shifting and improving to better serve the end users. For example, ‘front-loaded apprenticeships’. These will allow care operators to offer a greater proportion of training upfront so that employees can hit the ground running with their new skills. 

In a sector significantly impacted by staffing shortages, care managers should be considering how to make a long career within their organisation equally as attractive to new and existing employees. As our new toolkit shows, apprenticeships offer a unique opportunity to do this flexibly and cost-effectively. After all, boosting recruitment and retention rates at the same time as improving the skills of your workforce offers a unique win-win scenario. 

Download the See the Opportunity toolkit here.

Date Published: July 29, 2022