Louis Stockwell and and Catherine O’Neill iNetwork hosted the iNetwork webcast, Attracting & Retaining a Talented Diverse Workforce and they were joined by speakers Nichola Cooke, Liam Gilmore STAR Procurement and Julie Davison, North West Skills Development.

During Covid-19 there has been an increase of recognition for skilled and key workers and how local public services have supported the response and recovery of the pandemic. Despite this, the combination of demographic ageing, changing demands of works, and a lingering perception among some that local public sector work is stuffy or inefficient, has meant the sector is facing a potential skills shortage in many important areas. The webcast aimed to explore and address the skills gap and looked at some of the innovative employment strategies and leading examples used in the sector to ensure that public services remained equipped to deal with the challenges of tomorrow.

Invited speakers discussed the work in their own organisations and provided best practice examples of schemes that work to effectively attract, retain, and develop the next generation of talented individuals into the workforce. They considered techniques to attract prospective early career colleagues and how to develop and support young people.

In the first session, Nichola Cooke and Liam Gilmore from STAR Procurement presented their Grow Your Own Scheme. STAR Procurement is a shared procurement service whose vision is to lead transformation through procurement and cooperation. Nichola discussed her own career as an example, from studying A-Levels to being a Stock Broker to Economic Development to Project Manager before joining procurement. At STAR, one of the 4 enablers for the business is talent management and they believe that their biggest asset is their team. Thus, they’re Grow Your Own Scheme proactively manages this and offers opportunities and benefits to the workforce.

The scheme was started because procurement is difficult to recruit into, procurement is not discussed as a career option in education and many who choose procurement choose to work privately. The scheme provides a career pathway for the whole organisation as well as on attracting apprenticeships to develop and support them. Investing in the workforce through in house training, collaboration, relationship skills and development retains skilled staff. Liam discussed his career as a recently appointed Procurement Officer at STAR and his career is the Grow Your Own Scheme in action. He started studying Health and Social Care and decided against further education when he started looking for apprenticeship opportunities and joined STAR in business administration. From the onset STAR provided a clear development plan and supported Liam in understanding and building a good foundation of knowledge of procurement. On completion of his apprenticeship, he applied for a trainee role for which he was successful and he received further support to build a wider knowledge of procurement. The training and development is ongoing at STAR and new working patterns have helped in attracting a wider workforce.

The second session was presented by Julie Davison from North West Skills Development and particularly focused on attracting more digital and informatics skills into the health sector. North West Skills Development is a member organisation that supports the continuous development of NHS Finance, Informatics, Payroll and Procurement Staff and provides an infrastructure for improving leadership and professional development skills and sharing innovation and good practice through economy wide learning. All recruitment for roles in IT, Information and Software Development are done by NW Skills Development for their member organisations which makes the process easier and efficient. The remit from the board is to attract and retain new young talent into the NHS and offer development opportunities across the range of staff from apprentice to director level. Julie explained how they have developed their apprenticeship provision in Informatics through two programmes, the Foundation Programme and the Digital Data and Technology (DDaT) Programme.

The Foundation Programme is targeted at school and college leavers, it runs for 18 months and offers recognised industry certificates, skills workshops, development days, pastoral support and mentoring. The programme transitions from education to work and starts with introductory units that upskill and prepare for roles and then moves on to standard specific units that develop technical skills. This alongside on the job training gives them enough exposure to different aspects of the role they are undertaking and 95% of those that join this programme achieve the qualification.

The DDaT Programme focuses on attracting graduates into the NHS and is commissioned by NHS Digital Digital Readiness Programme. The programme runs for 24 months and offers workshops, continued professional development (CPD) sessions, pastoral support and mentoring from senior leaders in the NHS. It helps individuals understand challenging conversations, management, leadership and customer service whilst progressing them into the role. Both programmes work on developing skills and supporting individuals throughout the length of the programme to ensure that they can then retain and recruit individuals into the NHS.

At NW Skills Development they have gone above and beyond to attract a workforce into these programmes and Julie explained some of the key techniques they utilise to do so, such as advertising on their website, social media and specialist job boards. The use of different channels means that they can attract a wider audience, especially young people who use social media more often. They also attend career fairs at educational institutions, engage local career organisations and career advisors and work with NHS Digital. Identifying organisations that you can partner with is key to spreading the word across different landscapes and regions and filling hard to fill roles that are in demand.

The final session was the panel discussion where speakers discussed how schemes can be tailored to meet the needs of individuals by pro-actively encouraging and reminding staff of opportunities, discussing and identifying career paths, personal development reviews and career talks with managers/leaders.To aide this it is important that the individual is informed of what career opportunities might be available to them beyond the programme and into the wider sector. Also both STAR and NW Skills Development have a collective objective focusing on equality, diversity and inclusion into their schemes and NW Skills Development have worked with the Princes Trust to provide a different dynamic. This amongst ongoing training, development, career opportunities and professional qualifications can help attract and retain a talented and diverse workforce. 

This webcast was the first in a series, to find out more information on upcoming webcasts, keep up to date with all the latest from the Attracting & Retaining Public Sector Skills series.