Recruiting for potential

04 April 2018

Jeanine WilloughbyJeanine Willoughby

How can social care and health employers become more inclusive, by recruiting a workforce which better reflects their local community?

This year I’m fortunate to be leading a project that’s exploring how social care and health employers can become more inclusive by recruiting a workforce which better reflects their local community.

One way of doing this is by actively targeting people who are currently under-represented in the workforce. This could be, for example, people who are long-term unemployed, people with physical disabilities or long-term health conditions, ex-offenders, single parents, care leavers and ex-carers, to name but a few.

As part of the project, we’re working with five support organisations who are testing new ways the sector can support people who are furthest from the jobs market to become work ready.

I recently got on the road to visit one of these projects - Care Plus Group in Grimsby.

Part of their work is to support people who live on the East Marsh estate in Grimsby, which is one of the most socially deprived areas of England, into employment. And they do this through the focused effort of local employability officers.

It was great to see for myself how these officers work on a one-to-one basis with people from the estate. Each potential care worker has a personalised development plan to support them on their journey from unemployment to being work ready, and is tailored to support their own unique needs and requirements.

It was really encouraging to see that some participants only needed minimal support like writing their CV or filling in application forms. For others, it was more about accessing support to build their confidence, gain work experience and develop their interview skills.

On my visit I met Lauren* and Denise* who talked to me about their experience of the project.

Lauren, who’s a single parent and care leaver, was about to finish a work placement at a day care centre for older people and told me how much she had enjoyed it. From our short 15 minute conversation, she had already convinced me she had lots of the values and skills we’d expect social care workers to have. She had recently applied for a permanent care position, with support from Care Plus Group and was already practicing her interview skills with her employability officer so she was ready if the application was successful.

I also met Denise, who has a visual impairment and has been out of work for around 30 years. She told me about her placement, which was working with people with learning disabilities – as soon as we started talking I could see how much she was enjoying it.

As well as their incredible enthusiasm for finding a job in social care, it was clear that they were both making full use for the  support Care Plus Group were offering. As importantly, it was clear that the project had a big impact on their lives - they both spoke about how much more confident they were.

But I couldn’t help but wonder, what if Lauren and Denise aren’t successful in their job applications? From previous experience we know that some employers still rate qualifications and experience higher than a person’s values, and how they behave in the application process.

It is true that my 15 minute conversation went into nowhere near the amount of detail you’d ask someone in a full interview or pre-screening session. But here in front of me I saw two people who were so passionate and excited about the prospect of working in our sector, and I couldn’t help but keep my fingers crossed for both of them.

I was so inspired after my first visit to Care Plus Group in Grimsby that I was extra excited when I was invited to join Lincolnshire Care Association (LinCA).

This time I was going to Skegness - a rural and coastal town - where LinCA was holding an information day for their project ‘Inspire 2 Influence’ for the East Lincolnshire area.

Their project mainly focuses on supporting young people aged between 17 and 25 from disadvantaged backgrounds in the local area to get work ready. Participants are referred to the project through the local JobCentre Plus or Barnardos, all of whom are interested in starting a career in social care.

I joined LinCA on one of their information days which explain the different roles that prospective job applicants could do in social care and health, and looked at how the project workers could help them get ‘work ready’.

Ten participants came along who all had different backgrounds, which had made it difficult for them to access work. From the brief introductions I learned that a couple of participants were care leavers, others had moved around a lot with their family and left behind friends and familiar support networks, some people were single parents, and others had hidden disabilities.

But regardless of background, there was one common thread that I noticed – a lack of confidence. In my first ten minutes I heard people use phrases such as ‘I’m pretty useless really’ or ‘I’m just not good at that’.

What struck me was that of all the barriers these people faced when finding work, low confidence and self-esteem came across the most strongly.

It’s clear to me that there is more that we need to do as a sector to identify and support potential recruits. We need to say to them: ‘if you have the right values, there are ways that you can start your career in the sector – work experience, shadowing and training can do the rest’.

There were three care providers who had come along to the information day who were offering work placements and they talked about the opportunities they could offer. It was so refreshing to hear them talk about the culture of their organisations and engage with people about what they’d like to do – and this informal approach seemed to work well.

By the end of the session several of the participants, who had struggled to participate or maintain eye contact at the start, really began to open up and contribute more to the discussions.

I came away from the day feeling very humbled to have been trusted and included by the participants in what may well be the start of rewarding careers for them.

When back in the office, I felt I needed to think seriously about what we need to do to convince and support employers to reach out to people from hard to reach or disadvantaged backgrounds. People who might lack formal qualifications, but do who have the right values that we’re always looking for in social care.

* Names have been changed

What barriers or challenges do you feel there are when employing people from hard to reach or disadvantaged backgrounds?

Over the next few months, Skills for Care wants to create resources and guidance to support employers to tap into potential new pools of talent within the local community.

What barriers or challenges do you feel there are when employing people from hard to reach or disadvantaged backgrounds? What resources would you like to see to support you tap into potential new pools of talent within your own community?

If you’re an employer, or responsible for recruitment, I would like to hear your thoughts. Please contact randr@skillsforcare.org.uk

About the author

Jeanine Willoughby is a Project Manager for recruitment and retention at Skills for Care.  

Related RiPfA resources

Assets-based work with communities: Leaders' Briefing

Developing the social care workforce: Strategic Briefing

Making an outcomes approach work in practice: Frontline Briefing

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