Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust has been shortlisted in the workforce category at the HSJ Awards, for using recruitment strategies to recruit hard to fill vacancies and achieve long-term succession planning, while supporting the nationwide unemployment agenda. We spoke to Jim Pollitt, Head of Learning & Development at the Trust to find out more.
Why did your Trust implement this recruitment strategy?
We have been doing some work around changing our workforce demographic and had lots of data about the age profile of our workforce. We found we had an ageing workforce and a significant number of those workers were going to retire over the next five years. We therefore looked at who was coming into the workforce to replace them, and found that it was people in their 40s and 50s, so we realised we had to look at recruiting younger people.
Just two years ago, out of a workforce of 7,000 people at the Trust, only two of our staff were under 18 years of age and on permanent contracts. There was a short supply in the younger generation, so we decided to do something about it.
Why was there a need for this programme in your local area?
We needed to radically address recruitment shortages in a catchment area where there is high unemployment, low qualification achievements and an ambiguous perception of employer requirements and unqualified opportunities, to redress the Trust’s staffing vacancies and turnover rates.
What is ‘The Learning Works’?
‘The Learning Works’ was opened in February 2013 and we believe is a first within the NHS. It is a building set in the heart of a residential area in the Sandwell Borough, away from the main hospital site at the City Hospital. ‘The Learning Works’ is a community based building that was set up to support local people access employment in the health sector via a range of work experience, apprenticeship, volunteering and adult learning opportunities. Another service ‘The Learning Works’ offers to its clients is the ‘Work Club’. This initiative was launched back in November 2012 and it was set up in partnership with Jobcentre Plus.
In partnership with Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, we also teamed up with a local charity, Friends and Neighbours, which gave us access to the people in the local community.
‘The Learning Works’ building was gifted to the project by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council and by working in partnership we are helping to improve the local economy through getting unqualified, unemployed local people into work by developing them to achieve their career aspirations.
What do people do at The Learning Works?
The workforce development team offer advice and guidance on how to access NHS Jobs, and provide up-to-date information about all of the opportunities at our Trust, including when our programmes start.
Our Work Club is a Work Club with a difference. The advice and guidance we give is tailored to job seekers who are interested in pursuing a career in the NHS. We offer advice about using NHS Jobs effectively, making strong supporting statements for job applications as well as perfecting interview techniques. We also provide more general guidance regarding job search and C.V. writing.
We hold numeracy and literacy assessments to get an understanding of where the candidates are in meeting the entry criteria of our apprenticeship frameworks and job roles. For those clients that don’t pass these assessments we offer a number of alternative options, such as referring them to the local college or to other partners who may be best placed to provide different support.
What work opportunities can people gain through ‘The Learning Works’?
We are recruiting apprentices who can work at the hospital in a variety of disciplines, such as Healthcare Assistants, Business Administrators, Catering and also hard to recruit positions such as a Plaster Technician. We have gone from having just two 16-18 year olds working at the Trust, to 16 through the apprenticeship programme, and the number of 18-24 year olds working at the Trust has also increased. Participants receive a Level 2 QCF qualification on completion of their apprenticeship with the majority of them securing permanent employment.
The Learning Works facilitates work experience programmes for local unemployed people of all age groups. We have run three programmes so far, with good success rates of participants securing employment.
What are the benefits of ‘The Learning Works’ to the Trust?
We’re able to recruit based on values, standards and behaviours, and deliver the skills and knowledge that enables them to practice how we want them in that particular role.
Health prevention is an often forgotten benefit. In Birmingham there is a huge issue around youth unemployment and we are finding young people are starting to use the services at the hospital a lot more. If they are unemployed or not active, they are coming into hospital with various conditions due to bad diet, unhealthy living and lack of exercise. Their morale and motivation has gone, but by bringing them back into employment we are preventing long-term medical conditions and those individuals using our services in the future.
Do you have any future plans for the programme?
We are adopting the model that we have used here and are looking at rolling this out across all of the Black Country. Higher Education West Midlands is promoting the same model to be run across all of the West Midlands too.
Congratulations on being shortlisted and good luck at the Awards Ceremony.