Leading ESG partner Ahead Partnership is celebrating a third successful year of its Kirklees and Calderdale Health and Care Careers Pathway programme, run in collaboration with NHS Health Education England and C+K Careers.

The programme aims to inspire young people and increase their understanding of careers within the health and social care sector, challenge stereotypes that affect the sector and increase diversity within the NHS workforce. This is achieved through a range of activities designed to provide valuable insights into careers within the sector, including apprenticeship Q&As, careers panels, insight days, interactive workshops and careers advice sessions.

25 schools have taken part in the programme to date, with an impressive 6,861 students engaging in live activity and a further 8,300 young people being reached through digital resources including video and newsletters, ensuring widespread impact. Additionally, over 100 volunteers from organisations across the region have taken part in the initiative, which included participating in vlogs and live career sessions.

The programme is much needed, given the growing skills shortage facing the health and care sectors, with a current shortage within NHS Trusts alone of more than 100,000 staff which is predicted to rise to 350,000 by 2030, according to research by The Health Foundation.

The initiative has been particularly effective in its aim of increasing awareness and inspiring young people to consider careers in the health and social care sector. 96% of young people said that the programme had improved their awareness of roles in health and care, with 93% also having an increased understanding of the rewards of careers in the sector.

During the last year, a number of inspiring activities have run as part of the programme. In July 2023, 76 year 10 students from four schools across Kirklees and Calderdale took part in a week-long virtual work experience event.

The week included a combination of self-guided activity and live online events with Allied Health Professionals (AHPs). Students gained insight into the day-to-day role of their chosen profession and took part in activities which challenged them to think about the skills and experience they would need if applying for that role in the future. Work experience placements can be challenging to find within the sector, making this a valuable experience for those interested in pursuing a career in health and social care.

The programme has been supported by NHS England, NHS The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, Calderdale Council, Kirklees Council, University of Huddersfield, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, Local Care Direct, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, Kirklees and Calderdale Health and Care Partnerships , South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Blue Consultants and Locala CIC.

Brendan Brown, Partner member of NHS West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board, Calderdale and Kirklees Workforce Senior Responsible Officer and Chief Executive, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust said: “Skills shortages and workforce challenges are some of the biggest issues affecting the future of health and care, which is why we are delighted to support this initiative to raise awareness of the brilliant careers the sector has to offer.

“There is growing demand for specialist roles such as Occupational Therapists, Mental Health Nurses and Learning Disability Nurses, and programmes like this help to raise awareness of these roles.

“We’re thrilled that the programme has reached so many young people in Kirklees and Calderdale as well as offering development opportunities for our teams who volunteer. These impressive engagement figures show that the programme is a brilliant way to bring together stakeholders in the sector to be proactive in addressing workforce challenges of the future. I would love to see other health and care organisations take advantage of the programme.”

Martin Green, CEO at C&K Careers, said: “As long-term supporters of the Kirklees and Calderdale Health and Care Careers Pathway programme, we are delighted to have reached this milestone. By working with our partners to challenge stereotypes about careers in health and care, we can build a strong and diverse pipeline of future talent, as well as inspiring young people to consider the knowledge and skills that they can bring to the sector.

“We look forward to continuing to involve and engage with a range of schools from across West Yorkshire to address ongoing skills shortages and showcase how hugely rewarding a career in health and social care can be.”

Steve Brennan, Kirklees Place Programme Director, Kirklees Health and Care System said: “With the current skills shortage within the health and care sector, it is vital that more is done to strengthen talent pipelines for the region. This includes engaging with young people at an early stage to raise awareness of the opportunities available in the sector and continuing to re-engage at multiple stages to further develop their awareness and passion for careers in health and care.

“It has been great to see so many students take part in the initiative and increase their awareness of how vital, but also how beneficial, working within this sector can be.”

Stephanie Burras, CEO at Ahead Partnership added: “Bringing together a range of expert partners can be challenging, but we have demonstrated our expertise with the success of this programme. We have had excellent feedback, and we look to continue to build and expand on this success to maximise the impact on young people and the wider sector.

“Over the last three years it has been fantastic to see students connect with partners in the healthcare field and enhance their understanding of the skills needed and the opportunities available. The health and social care skills shortage is not only a key issue here in West Yorkshire, but a national issue, and it is essential that we prioritise early engagement to overcome this and ease the increasing sector pressures.”