We recently spoke to Jane Hanrahan, Workforce Development Manager at Norfolk County Council about how they use social work apprenticeships to recruit and retain staff. We asked Jane to give us some background information on the council's use of apprenticeships – this is what she had to say.
As a social work employer, we’re able to provide a career path for our employees who are in social care support roles, and who have the ability and enthusiasm to progress their careers into the social work profession. Social work is a shortage occupation, so apprenticeships are a great way of ‘growing our own’ social workers. This is particularly important as universities are getting fewer applicants to their undergraduate courses, and we need to maintain and grow the supply of newly-qualified social workers. As an employer it’s a good way to use the apprenticeship levy and demonstrate our commitment to careers development through this route.
Apprentices attract people from all backgrounds and provide a route to achieve a degree whilst earning a living and not having to finance course fees. Traditional qualifying routes can be seen as mainly aimed at those who are early in their careers and have successfully progressed through our education system. Apprenticeships have a broader appeal, for example to those who need to earn while they learn, to support a family, or are changing careers.
Apprentices are a positive influence in teams. They’re keen to learn, bring new ideas, and can share their learning with colleagues. This is the first year we’ve recruited externally as well as internally, and we’ve attracted a more diverse cohort than we would normally from internal recruitment alone.
In the longer term we anticipate apprenticeships will improve the stability of the workforce, as many of our apprentices are local and are likely to remain in the county.
To employers I’d say that in a difficult recruitment market, apprenticeships are an invaluable recruitment and retention tool. New employees are attracted to the opportunity to gain a qualification and current employees are more likely to stay with you if you invest in them and their careers.
To individuals I would say that if you have experience working in social care and are keen to progress into the social work profession it’s the ideal way of qualifying. You’ll really enjoy the opportunity to upskill and contribute more to your community. The caveat is that you do need to be ready for a challenge in terms of managing the demands of work and study. An apprenticeship will test and develop your time management and organisational skills.
We’ve had a great number of successes within the programme since starting the apprenticeship route. One of the key elements that we feel is really important is that we’ve been able to provide a route into social work for those with a lived experience of the care system.
Find out more about social work apprenticeships
With a variety of apprenticeships available in adult social care, including in non-care roles, it’s a great time to consider if apprenticeships can support both your recruitment and development needs within your organisation.
Funding is available for organisations wishing to recruit apprentices. However, the level of contribution will depend on whether your organisation is a levy, or non-levy payer. You can find more information about funding on the Skills for Care website.
If you’re interested in finding out more about welcoming apprentices into your organisation, you'll find everything you need on the apprenticeship section of the Skills for Care website.