Routes to professional staff

    In-house training of staff has become increasingly popular among
    local authorities and voluntary organisations keen to keep staff or
    solve recruitment problems, writes Keith
    Sellick
    . The latest social services workforce survey
    shows that three-quarters of councils provide in-house training for
    staff.
    So how do voluntary sector organisations compete with the statutory
    sector in training staff?    

    As provider of residential child care and leaving care services,
    Shaftesbury Homes and Arethusa started in-house training of its
    staff about five years.

    “We were satisfied with the staff we were recruiting but
    wanted to skill people up”, says Diane Gerrard, human
    resources director at Shaftesbury. In the past residential child
    care was not treated as a profession so by training staff and
    helping them achieve qualifications we are “adding
    value” and making it a career, she says.

    Awards offered are NVQ 3 and 4 and a manager development
    programme.

    The NVQs are linked to the government’s occupational
    standards and were giving an added boost by the development of the
    NVQ in child care, says Gerrard. In the past, she says, NVQs were
    seen as inferior but the “idea of second class has gone and a
    lot more now embrace the qualification.”

    It offers a common framework and understanding and allows staff to
    develop portable skills and qualifications – ones that can be
    taken into other social care fields.

    NVQ modules can also contribute to other qualifications and so
    offer a map or route for career progression in social care field.

    The NVQ programme at Shaftesbury lasts between 9 to 18 months
    depending on the individual’s experience and enthusiasm.
    There are twice-yearly workshops where staff can share knowledge
    and experience and examine their practice and build up their
    portfolios. There are also workplace assessments and assignments.

    In addition to providing staff added value, Shaftesbury has been
    pushing the qualifications as part of the government requirement to
    have 80 per cent of its child care workforce qualified at NVQ level
    3 or above. This year about 30 staff will study for an NVQ although
    Gerrard says this figure will decline as more staff become
    qualified.  

    Residential care officers and senior residential care officers take
    NVQ 3 and 4. Half of staff used to be titled social workers but
    with protection of title all staff are residential care
    officers.

    The managerial development course is for managers or those
    identified as future managers and also offers team and individual
    support.

    The beauty of the NVQ framework says Gerrard is that “it fits
    all staff”.  

    She also believes that the development of the social work degree
    means that, hopefully, by 2008 the government should have mapped
    out a way to obtain the degree through the NVQ route. Although she
    is concerned that staff may find time and money restraints in
    taking up the degree, she is hopeful that NVQ modules will be able
    to contribute towards the degree.

    In the long-term, Gerrard believes that the voluntary sector will
    be able to contribute innovative practice towards child care and
    provide a range of services for young people and families such as
    in extended schools and multi-agency work. And a key part of this
    will be developing a flexible workforce with skills and
    qualifications that can be used in a wide range of settings.

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