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The following case study provides an example of how Bluebird Care, an adult care provider, has embraced industry placements to support the development of its future talent pipeline and to provide first-hand experience of the opportunities available in the health sector.
Bluebird Care is a homecare provider in the south of England. It employs around 200 care assistants who work in the community providing care services in people’s homes. Services can range from a 30 minute visit to full live-in support.
Sharon Tutton has been operations director for the past four years, having previously worked in corporate banking. As she explains, placements in care settings are not always straightforward, but the new T Level qualification provides opportunities not to be missed, especially in a world likely to be dealing with the impact of COVID-19 for many years to come.
Why T Levels and industry placements now?
What attracted Bluebird Care to T Levels and industry placements at this particular time? “There’s both a personal reason and a business reason. From a business point of view, COVID has raised the profile of care assistants quite a lot. Before COVID it was often seen as a job of last resort, which it’s absolutely not. It’s an incredibly important and worthwhile role. It’s always been part of my motivation to promote the care assistant role as a career, to bring good people into the organisation. That’s the business motivator”.
Sharon added, “Personally, I think it’s very important to give young people an understanding of what the role is and to experience it for themselves”.
How will a typical industry placement work?
“Until now we’ve only been able to provide work placements in our offices but not in people’s homes. That’s not really what we or the students want. Now with T Levels, we’re able to support students to go into the community. Industry placements allow us to deliver what we want, and what the students want, to achieve. Being a care assistant is a tough gig but it’s amazingly fulfilling. I want them to have that feeling of what it’s like”.
What is an ideal day in the community for a T Level student?
Sharon outlined her expectations for an ideal day on an industry placement in the community. “Our industry placement students are able to work alongside a senior care assistant visiting customers, with their prior agreement, of course. The idea is that students take part in some, but not all of the activities which care assistants provide to customers. They also have time in the office to see the whole story from start to finish. By spending time with our coordinator and customer care manager, students see how we initially assess a customer, write the care plan, prepare risk assessments and talk to customers about our terms of business”.
Selling the vision of industry placements
“When I first mentioned industry placements to the owner of the business, he wanted to understand their purpose and how much of team members’ time would be taken up by them. I told him that having T Level students for a day a week over a longer period would be less of a drain on resources than if they were with us for a full week. Not that I see it as a drain in any case!
"It was not an easy sell, but I convinced him that it would be good for recruitment. If we could capture the imaginations of young people, early on in their thought processes about a career, it would give us the opportunity to forge a longer-term relationship with them. That’s how I sold it”.
The impact of COVID on T Level planning and preparation
“The biggest barrier is convincing customers that it’s okay for another person to come into their homes. When COVID first hit, some customers panicked and cancelled their care assistant. I’m pleased to say they’re all back with us now, we did not lose a single customer. We’ve followed all the Public Health England guidance, which has increased their confidence. But our biggest challenge for industry placements will be finding enough customers who are happy for that additional person to go in”.
“The office environment is not a problem because there are clear procedures in place. We’ve split teams into two in the main office, working on alternate days to help with social distancing. There are protocols for wearing face masks, hand-washing, temperature tests and so on, just as you’d expect”.
“There are other things we’ve introduced as well. All our team meetings are via Teams. That includes all our care assistants. We thought they would hate it, but actually, they love it. We also support people working from home if they want to”.
The strategic view
“Once I know I have a student and where they live, I draw up a programme based on what they want to achieve from the placement. It’s about actually getting to know a bit about the student first and trying to fulfil their desires throughout the whole placement".
Sharon’s advice to other employers considering offering industry placements to T Level students:
- Meet the students in person before you confirm the placements, to make sure they can fit in with the team. Finding out about this, plus their work ethic, is every bit as important as knowing their existing skills or experience, maybe even more so.
- Plan the placements in detail at every single location, so that the needs and interests of the student can link with the skills within the team.
- Provide a range of experiences that cover as much of the role as possible, to give students an accurate picture of what it’s really like.
- Take regular stock of progress through reviews and updates with students and their managers, to ensure that all is well.
- Take personal responsibility for making T Level industry placements a success. It needs a champion who’s able to oversee all aspects.
- Promote the wonderful opportunities for a career in your sector in general and your organisation in particular.
If you're interested in offering an industry placement, get in touch with T Level providers near you.