Interview: Liz McSheehy, director, National Skills Academy

Liz McSheehy to emphasise the value of training and ensure good practice is known to a wider audience

The first director of the National Skills Academy for Social Care has promised to drive up standards through workforce development and speak up for the adult care sector in England.

Liz McSheehy said the new body, due to start in October, would help employers to improve the skills and capacity of the workforce to meet the needs of an ageing population.

Speaking to Community Care to mark her appointment last week, McSheehy said her priorities would include strengthening leadership, increasing take-up of workforce development funding, and demonstrating the value of training to employers and staff.

Attractive career

She also promised to make social care a more attractive career option by tackling misconceptions spread by the media.

“There’s some good stuff going on out there but nobody knows about it outside the ­sector,” McSheehy said, adding her support to Community Care’s Stand Up Now for Social Work campaign. “How do we raise the volume, how do we shout about it a bit more?

“We need to use case studies to illuminate what’s good and share that practice.”

Working alongside chair David Sherlock, McSheehy will help to deliver the academy’s remit: to “identify, celebrate, endorse and promote excellence” in adult social care workforce development.

She said small- to medium-sized employers work in an increasingly diverse sector, where 85% of providers are independent, so bringing them together would make it easier to share and adopt good practice in leadership and training.

Areas of work

Five areas of work have already been identified, including endorsing excellence in training providers (see right).

article on macsheehy

There are plans to release a DVD this summer in which five care home managers discuss their careers. The aim of the DVD is to encourage staff to move into management.

In line with the academy’s “co-production” policy, practitioners, employers and service users are being consulted as other programmes are developed.

The academy is one of four in the planning stage that will share £30m start-up funding from the Learning and Skills Council over the next three years.

The quartet will join a network of 12 existing academies, covering a range of sectors, including manufacturing, hospitality and retail.

The social care academy – the first welfare-based organisation of its kind – will be sponsored by the Department of Health but is expected to become self-sufficient by the end of 2012. In the long-term, the academy could be funded by donations – it is hoping to achieve charitable status this summer – and contributions from employers through a membership scheme.

Restoring confidence

McSheehy added that accessible study methods, such as e-learning, would be developed to increase take-up of training among frontline staff. Driving up the skills, standards and professionalism of the workforce would be a vital step towards restoring confidence to the sector, she said.

“Having the qualifications and the recognition is so hugely about personal self-esteem for frontline staff,” she said. “It’s important that they get the recognition for what they’re doing.”

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Who is liz mcsheehy?

Education: Studied social science at the University of London.

Career: Civil servant in central and regional government with a background in business development. Entered the voluntary sector last year by launching National Voices, a national charity representing service users in health and social care.

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