Section 7: Training and skills

Section 7: Training and skills

Training over the life course

Training is important, especially for experienced staff.

Many employers allocate training whilst thinking about the ‘career lifecycle.’ In other words, younger people spend a large share of their early career years learning new skills that they then use through the rest of their careers.

However such a mindset is mostly out dated, given that the skills needed for most jobs change over time.

“Care work has especially changed considerably over time. Many care workers are supporting clients with health conditions that require care from people with specialist training. Providing some training to all staff in supporting people with different health conditions can pay dividends in terms of making best use of the experience and abilities of front-line workers.”

“Care workers are dealing with people who’ve had strokes, people with multiple sclerosis, people with dementia…so, it’s the ability to adapt to different people’s care needs. If you were a homecare worker, in theory, you could visit 10 people during the day with 10 different conditions, all with different particular needs.” (UNISON national officer)
Question: Does this reflect your own experience? And you feel that the training and support you receive has adapted to the ever-changing challenges of the job?

Making better use of technology

Technology has the potential to transform how care is delivered in at least three ways:

  • How care is organised
  • How health and social care professionals communicate
  • How physical tasks are carried out

Some worry about technology taking over the role of care workers, but such a view may be overblown. Care work is complex and needs human decision-making and it is demanding more professional skills, not less.

While technology is unlikely to replace care workers, it has the potential to complement their work. For example:

  • Assistive technology is already used to manage physically demanding work like lifting in a way that is safer for both clients and care workers.
  • Tech can also be used to improve communication between care workers and clients, as well as manage workloads.

Training in technology
To be able make best use of technology, care workers need to be trained in how to use it. A modest amount of training can lead to better use of equipment and software, which can then pay dividends in terms of efficiency.

“Technology can take away the menial parts of the job and leave us to spend more time focusing on the needs of the elderly. This is what I got into care work to do” (Northern Ireland care worker)
Do you see technology as a threat or a benefit to your role?

Fostering a learning environment

Generally, older workers are often reluctant to ask for training. Reasons for this include:

  • If it is to help with a job that they’ve been doing for a long time, they worry that their managers will think a request for training means that they’re no longer able to do their job well
  • Training might be available, but it isn’t suited to what older workers want

result? Those who need training the most are often the least likely to ask for it.

Older workers want training that builds on their existing skills sets and enables them to make best use of their existing knowledge and experience. Organisations which have reciprocal training arrangements – in which older learners share their knowledge with younger colleagues – often fair the best in terms of encouraging participation.

Do you think this would work in your organisation?

A handy checklist for skills management

Here is a checklist for care sector employers to help ensure that staff are motivated in their work – and that the skills in your organisation meet the demands of the service:

1. Skills assessment: Do you have the right skills within the workforce to deliver services within an increasingly high skilled environment?

  1. Do clients need more from their care workers than they have in the past?
  2. Are skills assessments leading to needs that are growing, especially within the specialisms of health care, medicines, gerontology, management and social work?
  3. Do you talk with your care workers about the skills required in their jobs?
  4. Do you talk with other professionals like those in health and social work about the needs of the service?

2. Skills audit: Do you have the skills that are needed within your workforce?

  1. Have you conducted a skills audit in your organisation to determine what qualifications, knowledge, and experience is now in the workforce?
  2. What skills are now available and where are the gaps?
  3. Can the gaps be filled through up skilling existing staff?
  4. Can you build upon the experiential skills within the workforce?

3. Skills survey: What training do your care workers feel they need?

  1. Have you spoken with employees about the training they need in order to do their work in a safe and efficient way? Do you carry out appraisals? If so, how often?
  2. Have you developed a training plan for staff so that they can gain skills in a systematic way?
  3. Have you assessed the value of investing in training in terms of improved service delivery, use of technology and more efficient and higher quality care?

4. Career plans: Do you know what your employees want from their careers?

  1. Do you hold regular discussions with employees about their career plans?
  2. Do you hold regular discussions with both younger and older employees?
  3. Are there opportunities for care workers to apply for promotions within your company?
  4. Are there opportunities to progress within the wider health and social care sector?
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