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By Debbie le Quesne

Apprenticeships and the need to upgrade the work of carers

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There are vacancies aplenty for carers in the UK, but employers in the sector are struggling to fill them.

The national issue is highlighted in a Guardian piece. A new report by The Work Foundation suggests that social care apprenticeships “have great potential” but  the concept is not without problems – not least educational content and wages.

The article speaks of a need to “strengthen the pipeline for future talent.” But while the social care sector employs relatively large numbers of young people, most recent new apprentices have been aged over 24, research says.

The piece adds that “given the sector’s older age profile, this suggests that apprenticeships are not functioning well as a pathway into social care for young people.”

Personally, I think apprenticeships are great idea – the perfect bridge from school to work. We have a pool of youngsters needing work, but it must be matched by employers willing to offer apprenticeship schemes. Presently, the article informs “while social care employers recognise skills shortages (almost a quarter report skills gaps in their workforce), the low number offering apprenticeships suggests that many do not see them as the solution.”

However, the sector does provide good initiatives to promote apprenticeships to employers – including I Care … Ambassadors, an Employer Champions network, and good practice is shared through the Sector Skills Council.

The Work Foundation suggests “this activity should be expanded.”

Encouraging the young to work with the old and chronically sick is never going to be a glamorous business, but I can’t help thinking that the status of the sector has a huge impact on job perceptions.

I know I keep beating this drum, but the value of care and the work care providers offer desperately needs upgrading.

And we can’t deny that low pay rates, couple with high responsibilities, are a factor in pushing the young away from the sector.

The Work Foundation suggests: “ Along with developing better entry and progression opportunities, tackling low pay should be a key priority.”

Hmm . . . low pay. Isn’t that something that is affecting the providers as well as their employees?

Katy Jones is a researcher at the Work Foundation and the author of The Road Less Travelled? Improving the apprenticeship pathway for young people, points out: “Given endemic skills shortages and increasing demand for quality care services, there is an urgent need to address these problems in social care.”

Quite how in these times of financial restraint, I’m not sure as rewards for work are indeed a primary motivation.

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