Solving the health and social care skills gap – what can be done?

12th July 2023

The skills gap in the health and social care industry has been a long running problem for the sector. Many workers that would usually fill the gaps in the labour force have instead chosen to leave the UK in the aftermath of Brexit, in addition to the difficult conditions following the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis.

In light of these issues we commissioned a report that provides practical information on what employers can do to leverage the skills and abilities of their current staff to retain good employees, and help reduce their skills gap.

The crisis affecting the current job market is not new as can be evidenced by the Home Office’s Shortage Occupation list (SOL) which lists the skilled worker roles that the government deems to be in short supply. The Health and Social Care sector is top of that list.

This shortage of workers affects employers of all sizes, including 68% of SMEs and 86% of large organisations. It’s important to note that these shortages are not just for highly skilled positions but also include intermediate-skill workers, a shortfall that is predicted to reach 3.1 million by 2030. Two potential causes of this growing gap are:

  •  The long-standing mismatch between the skills that potential employees learn in education compared to the skills needed by them in the work-place, and;
  •  The lack of training opportunities available during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Finding staff to remedy this shortage has become increasingly difficult for the sector, due in part to pay constraints: increasing hourly pay to attracting high-calibre candidates is not a ready solution. The need to meet legal requirements for national minimum wage and holiday pay, as well as tighter budgets from local authority care allowances, have reduced the financial resources available to employers.

It’s a seller’s market for employees at the moment and candidates have found themselves with a choice selection of jobs to pursue. The market for younger candidates suggests they are a lot more choosy about working for companies that do not reflect the right culture, ethics or social capital. Meanwhile older employees prefer flexibility over pay and thus can afford to be more selective in what role they choose.

To mitigate the challenges faced by employers post-Brexit, many care sector organisations are instead targeting overseas employees to fill the gaps in their workforce. For those planning to employ from overseas it is important to ensure that your sponsorship of workers, licence requirements and timeframes are properly considered.

Unfortunately the underlying factors aggravating the staff skill shortage cannot be easily resolved, however they can be mitigated by reflecting upon the current market and taking the steps needed to appear more desirable to potential candidates.

By providing considered working patterns and job descriptions, along with the opportunity to train and progress in the role, will help engage candidates and will grow a sense of pride in working for you which will help retain your workers.

For more information on the skills gap and how we can help you please contact our Health and Social care team.

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