How Care Worker Apprenticeships Are Creating the Next Generation of Carers Within the social care sector, recruiting and retaining a hardworking and devoted workforce has been a continuous dilemma for care providers. With an ageing population, a looming Brexit date and an upcoming Green Paper, the pressure to find a solution to staffing challenges is increasing day by day. Never one to shy away from a challenge, here at Quantum Care we have come up with a number of innovative ways to make sure we not only recruit the most compassionate and committed carers, but that we offer them the support and opportunities they need to help them stay with us for the long-term. One of these innovative projects has been the introduction of our bespoke Adult Care Work Apprenticeship scheme. Unlike Apprenticeships offered by other organisations, who might offer HR or head office Apprenticeships, our scheme focuses on the training and development of those who work delivering care to our residents. Adult Care Work Apprenticeship Scheme The specially tailored scheme consists of a 13 month fast-track programme which combines both practical care work and a formal education at one of our carefully chosen partner colleges. At the end of the scheme, Apprentices will have earned their Care Certificate, Level 2 Award in Dementia Awareness and a Level 2 Diploma in Health & Social Care, in about half the amount of time it traditionally takes. Throughout the programme, our Apprentices work a 37 hour week and are paid well above the standard apprenticeship pay with a further pay rise after the first six months. We have found that offering a mix of practical care work and formal education is not only the best option for our organisation but has been a deciding factor for many of our Apprentices to join the programme. It offers the Apprentices a chance to gain more practical skills whilst becoming accustomed to the values, environment and quality requirements of our homes. This exposure to the practical elements of care work from such an early point increases the quality of care for our residents and the retention rates of our staff. The Aim of the Programme As well as shaping the next generation of carers, a main aim of our Adult Care Work Apprenticeship scheme has been to professionalise care work. The formal approach we have taken of a structured Apprenticeship scheme, which includes a dedicated Co-ordinator based at Head Office who provides additional out-of-home support, is helping to shift perceptions about the professionalism of care work both within the industry and within the community. A further defining element of our programme is its inclusivity. The shortened programme and generous pay has meant that we are able to recruit the most ambitious and talented Apprentices from a variety of different backgrounds. Without this new entry point into care that our programme has created, many individuals would not have had the opportunity or capability to commit to a career in care through the traditional educational route. Our Apprentices Currently, three of our Apprentices are over the age of 30. The financial support they received through the programme allowed for them to finally make the career change into care whilst still being able to support themselves and their families. I had the pleasure of meeting one of these Apprentices, who for health reasons was unable to finish the final year of her nursing degree and follow her dream of hospital nursing. After struggling to find a new career path that fulfilled both her desire to care for others and aspirations for progression, she applied for our Apprenticeship scheme. Since then she has fully embraced the programme and told me it is one of the best things she’s ever done. The programme perfectly suits her ambitious and driven nature which has only intensified after already suffering from one career setback. Once the Apprenticeship programme is complete she will be continuing her management training which will hopefully lead into a senior care position and eventually a Home Manager. This is the perfect example of the type of individual that we are hoping to recruit through our scheme. Those who have come from a different career path tend to be more passionate and confident about a career in care work. Not only this but they are able to contribute a variety of different skills and experiences which help Quantum Care to grow as an organisation and continue to succeed. Younger Applicants However, this does not mean that we do not value our younger and equally as ambitious Apprentices. The programme has proved to be popular amongst school leavers who have decided that university is not for them, and who recognise the potential our programme offers for a life-long career in care. It has been humbling to see the enthusiasm and determination our young Apprentices have towards care work. By having younger individuals on the programme, we are hoping they will become vocal advocates for the career opportunities the care sector has to offer. This will in turn not only increase the number of younger people pursuing a career in care, but also provide much needed recognition that care work is a highly respectable professional career path. An Investment in the Future Although this programme requires significant investment of time and money and is in no way an easy solution to the recruitment and retention problems the sector is facing, we are beginning to reap the rewards of our investment. It takes time, patience and a lot of communication to create a programme that is beneficial to both our organisation, our Apprentices and to the sector as a whole. However, I would highly recommend that all care providers invest in developing their own Apprenticeship scheme. These schemes are not only an investment in the future of our organisations but in the future of the profession and the professionalisation of care work.Author – Maria Ball, Quantum Care LtdHelp care workers change lives by becoming a supporter of The Care Workers Charity today. If you’re a caregiver, check if you qualify for support here.