In this month’s column, I’m focusing on another national target we’re aiming to achieve as part of our five-year plan.
That is to have a social care and early years workforce with the right qualifications, knowledge, skills and values.
It’s a very challenging time for the social care and early years sectors. The care workforce is continuing its efforts to recover from the effects of the pandemic while also having to cope with many vacancies which are proving difficult to fill.
All this places more pressure on the workers who are continuing to provide the care and support that growing numbers of people need in Wales.
However, despite all these challenges, we cannot forget how important it is to keep making sure the social care and early years workforce is getting the right learning and development it needs to deliver high-quality care and support.
Education and training are critical in helping us attract and retain more high-quality people.
Ongoing learning makes sure out of date perceptions that care work is a low skill job are challenged. In fact, experience and values are as essential as qualifications and there are great opportunities to develop as part of a rewarding career.
That’s why we must continue to invest in educating and training the social care and early years workforce in Wales.
It’s important that this investment is targeted in the right way. Up until relatively recently, much of our education and training has been provided in traditional ways.
But now we need to make sure education and training meet the needs of current and future care workers and leaders who want more flexibility in where and how they learn.
To do this, we need to address the mismatch between the pace of digital and technological change and our ability to embed them in our everyday work in social care and early years.
To better understand how to maximise the benefits of digital and flexible ways of learning, we commissioned the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) to find out how increased reliance on digital learning during the pandemic affected frontline social care staff.
We were keen to know what digital learning means for social care workers in Wales and whether it benefits or challenges them.
Our research was carried out across all local authorities in Wales.
The report highlighted that people need support to develop digital skills and the right equipment to learn effectively.
It showed that digital learning can give learners flexibility and allows them to study independently and at their own pace. It can also be more cost effective as there’s less travel and the digital resources have a wider reach.
But it also highlighted some challenges, mainly because of poor internet connection, limited access to equipment and inconsistency in the quality of digital resources.
People said they wanted digital learning to be more interactive, to help support their well-being, as learning online can mean fewer opportunities to form relationships and learn from each other.
They want a balance between digital and face-to-face sessions, training that’s practical and interactive, high-quality resources and the right support to learn independently.
It’s now important that all of us in the sector take on board the recommendations from the report which include:
- taking a national approach to digital learning
- supporting learners and providers to develop digital skills
- making sure there’s a focus on learners’ needs
- supporting staff to apply learning to their practice.
We’re using the findings to develop learning and development resources that will be of practical use to our busy professionals in Wales.