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Recognising, rewarding and encouraging good care skills

22 October 2012
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Last week Barchester Healthcare spoke publically about their difficulty in recruiting young talent. Jeremy Coleman, the HR director at Barchester Healthcare outlined his frustrations at having hundreds of jobs that they struggle to fill due to the poor level of applicants. From his experience many of the potential young candidates he meets are either not ready to work or “do not have the motivation”. Barchester Healthcare is by no means the only care business struggling with recruitment, it’s an issue that plagues the sector.

But I found myself wondering: Is the issue really that young people don’t want to work or rather that care homes fail to attract good candidates because people don’t want to work in this sector? Barchester Healthcare’s description of recruiting apprentices could not be more different from our own recent apprentice recruitment day, where we were overwhelmed by positive responses from bright and enthusiastic candidates. So to blame schools for not producing young people who are ready and willing to work doesn’t seem to tell the full story.

This discordance between the two recruitment processes is particularly strange when you consider that Barchester Healthcare is a bigger organisation, with a greater number of vacancies, in a growing sector and broader reach through wider advertising of its apprentice roles. I would argue that the cause of this problem is actually that our society does not value care, despite it being one of the most important and potentially fulfilling roles in our community.

All too often we’re shown an image of care that is fronted by poorly paid, undervalued, and heavily criticised, migrant workers. Surely the most precious thing in life is our ability to look after each other, nurture our families, and protect the vulnerable? Yet we seem to have lost sight of this fact. Traditionally it has been a poorly paid sector, with high staff turnover.

As this changes through progressive organisations like Barchester Healthcare investing in new employee schemes, there also needs to be a fresh debate in the public about the value of care.  Individuals must be challenged to think again about what working in the care sector means. It’s time we encouraged both schools and parents to look out for children with natural skills in empathy and kindness, and demonstrate that the care sector can lead to respected qualification, as well as satisfying and valued work. This won’t happen overnight, but if this problem is to be solved it’s vital that care fixes its broken image.