Home Human Resources A fresh look for careers in social care

A fresh look for careers in social care

by Kirsty Kirsty

The social care sector is working hard to address the ongoing challenges of recruitment, training and retention. For example, UNISON is calling for the creation of a national care service, which could help to rebrand and professionalise the sector. The government has also launched the Care Workforce Pathway, which for the first time creates a new national career structure for care workers. This renewed focus on training, qualifications and career development is very welcome, but how can we make the most of it?

Transforming learning and development

We know from conversations with care professionals that one of the most effective ways to learn is on the job. However, this isn’t very scalable and can be expensive to coordinate. E-learning, on the other hand, is a lot more accessible and affordable to run, but the quality can vary hugely. A recent survey by FuturU showed that 36% of care professionals were frustrated by the lack of interactive or practical elements, which makes it difficult to stay engaged. Meanwhile 28% felt the e-learning content didn’t suit their learning preferences, highlighting the importance of making training content more personalised.

Despite these frustrations, online learning has huge potential and could be just as effective, if not more so, than on the job shadowing. For example, at FuturU we’re exploring how AI could be used to simulate a person with dementia and allow you to have a virtual chat with them. AI could also be used to simulate different care settings, such as a hospital, school or prison. It’s not always easy to practise these scenarios in the real world, so having the chance to train in a safe environment with realistic characters and interactions could be a game-changer. What’s more, mistakes are free, allowing people to practise repeatedly until they achieve mastery.

The good news is that there’s a strong appetite among care professionals to use technology for learning, which shouldn’t be ignored. According to our research, 86% said they would be willing to use digital devices for training purposes, while 51% said that training in a virtual environment would improve their practical skills. That said, we cannot forget the importance of boosting people’s digital skills and ensuring that this kind of learning is available and accessible to everyone working across the sector.

Of course, these types of immersive and interactive learning experiences need to be affordable for both care organisations and care professionals. Right now, many organisations need to go through a complicated process to obtain government funding for training. This often leaves staff forking out for their own training, limiting their ability to complete additional courses and gain new skills.

A new image for social care

We also need to think differently about the disparate jobs and career paths in care, so that people are aware of how they can progress both horizontally and vertically. Likewise, it’s important that care professionals are given opportunities to advance as they gain relevant experience and develop their skills, rather than moving up because they’ve been in their role for a long time.

In order to improve the perception of social care, many agree that we need to do more to professionalise the sector. Given that less than half of care workers have a Level 2 or above qualification, providing a more structured framework that gives care professionals a roadmap against which to develop themselves and their careers is crucial. This is hopefully where the Level 2 Adult Care Certificate can add value, enabling staff to track and evidence the knowledge, skills, values and behaviours they gain in work, through training and certificates.

Beyond this, the development of more specialist roles will be crucial for attracting younger people into the workforce, as well as those who may not have previously considered a career in care. New advances in technology will hopefully open the door to more opportunities like care technologists. Likewise, we should also be leveraging people’s skills in areas like data to help people forge a career in the sector.

AI coaches and job matching

In the near future, advances in AI will make it possible to coach care professionals throughout their day by offering personalised advice on their caregiving methods, interpersonal skills and how they can best manage stress and career development needs within their organisation. This could totally transform how people feel about their role and ensure their long-term engagement and satisfaction.

We also need to get better at monitoring and joining up data within social care to support people’s long-term career goals. With vast amounts of data, AI could help match people with the right job setting by understanding what they’re good at and the types of environments they’re likely to excel in. Using data to track how care professionals develop over time would also help care organisations to provide more personalised progression paths, rather than a one-size-fits-all model.

In summary, there’s a growing consensus for the need for care professionals to have a more prominent profile and clearer pathways that promote continuous learning and skill development. In an industry with little money to spare, leveraging technology for training, coaching and job matching is a vital step towards these ambitious goals.

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