In many systems, efforts are underway to grow the workforce locally, provide training opportunities for people to develop their skills, and, where staff passporting and joint banks are being used, align training and development for staff in similar roles. Integration offers members of staff an opportunity to build a ‘portfolio’ career or gain a broader range of skills, and with this comes a need to ensure the workforce across the system has skills and knowledge that are compatible with this way of working.

One way systems are working in a more joined up way on staff training is through apprenticeships, a model of recruiting and training new staff well suited to a place-based approach to building the workforce according to local needs. In STPs and ICSs, the largest employers with pay bills over £3m per year pay the apprenticeship levy. They can use this levy to fund the training costs of apprenticeships.

There are flexibilities to either use the levy, or share 25% of it with other, smaller, employers in the system. Trusts which cannot always use their levy contribution in full themselves are working with smaller employers in their STPs/ICSs to make use of a larger proportion of the funding without incurring the additional costs associated with training an apprentice, giving smaller employers access to funding to grow their workforce through this model. Sharing funding for training in this way comes with an opportunity to discuss system-wide workforce priorities, including what skills gaps can be addressed through training apprentices.

Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent STP

The Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent workforce programme team has been in place for just over 12 months and fosters system-wide, collaborative working to deliver the NHS long term plan and interim people plan workforce aspirations and address the local workforce challenges.

The team have made significant progress in taking actions to address the workforce challenge within Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent. The programme has delivered both on savings to the system and workforce solutions, proving value for money in the investment in the team. The majority of the success has been delivered via fostering positive relationships with system colleagues, thinking creatively about potential solutions and supporting providers to challenge ’the norm’ in regards to career pathways/collaboration.

The health and care graduate scheme which is unique to Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent STP, was developed by the workforce programme in collaboration with system partners to increase supply of young people choosing the health and care sector. The sector has traditionally had limited success in attracting young people directly from college as our registered careers required them to do A-levels and go to university (and pay fees). Young people are increasingly opting for vocational qualifications rather than A-levels due to concerns about future job availability. Therefore, the workforce team developed the scheme to allow young people to start straight out of college, earn while they learn without accruing course fees, and experience a rotation between sectors which will allow them to make the right choice for registered professional route. Fourteen outstanding candidates have now been appointed and will carry out five placements over a three-year period, including adult community, acute mental health, community mental health and learning disabilities, primary care (including care home and domiciliary care experience) and social care. The candidates will also spend time in A&E, therapies and the ambulance trust as part of their placements, while carrying out level 2 and 3 apprenticeships diploma in health.

In the first scheme of its kind regionally, the workforce programme has developed and delivered a process enabling system-wide unspent apprenticeship levy monies to be shared with non-levy paying employers. This has resulted in an additional 120 apprenticeships being delivered within Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent in organisations such as domiciliary care agencies, care homes, nursing homes and GP practices. The second phase of applications is out to the system currently and an ongoing utilisation process in development.

In partnership, NHS, non-NHS and education providers have developed a one-year rotational apprenticeship programme for the end of life pathway. Ten candidates have been appointed to the level two scheme and will rotate between adult community health, hospice, nursing home and acute services to gain a rounded experience of the pathway. It is envisaged that these young people will then apply for level three apprenticeships within the sector.

The retention of staff is a key issue for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent providers. They know there is no single action that will resolve staff retention issues – retaining staff is a result of the combined actions that are taken by organisations. Therefore the workforce programme has developed a retention framework in partnership with STP partners. The aim of this framework is to provide various solutions and tools which may be adopted by organisations within the Staffordshire STP. Tools include online resources, 'itchy feet' conversations and 'transfer window' process. Partners are currently collaborating on tackling other big issues including retirement, flexible working, and career coaching.

The workforce programme hosts a central redeployment service which is offered to NHS partners within the STP. Working with HR teams and 'at risk' staff to ensure that they are offered opportunities from all host organisations prior to job advertisement, the team have saved £4m of potential redundancy costs and successfully redeployed 158 people to date. Based on the fostering of strong relationships and processes established with existing partners, the team are currently working with other STPs and NHS organisations outside the Staffordshire footprint and non-NHS partners to extend the service.

The team have recently designed and developed a website which includes a 'talent academy' and 'new horizons hub' in collaboration with system partners. Its primary aim is to create a single point of access for information and advice on organisations in our sector, training and education available, support in navigating careers and opportunities within the system in order to attract and retain the workforce in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent. In creating this hub for retention, career advice and widening participation activity, interest in the sectors is streamed accordingly and creates capacity within already stretched organisational resources.

The programme is clear on the next steps required to further progress and plans are already in place to scale and spread initial successes.