A partnership project designed to boost skills and fill vacancies across the region’s health and social care sector has been hailed as a ‘brilliant’ example of creativity and collaboration.
The Marches Education Partnership is being driven by a group of education and training organisations to support the recruitment and retention of NHS and social care staff.
It includes Telford College; Herefordshire, Ludlow and North Shropshire College; Shrewsbury Colleges Group; and SBC Training.
A mobile training unit, equipped with virtual and augmented reality technology, will soon be touring the Marches area delivering technology-led and practical training.
It will be equipped with virtual reality headsets, simulated at-work training facilities, an immersive cave, and other training software which is being developed specifically for the partnership.
Kirsty Evans, director of the further education directorate at the Government’s Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), visited Telford College to see the equipment in action, and meet the partners.
She said: “It is brilliant to see the impact that the Strategic Development Fund is having, enabling the cutting-edge application of technology to enhance the delivery of learning.
“It is an impressive example of what can be achieved when colleges and training providers work together, in collaboration with employers.
“Even though this project is still in its early stages, it is clear to see that this partnership is already making a real difference.”
Simon Whitehouse, chief executive of NHS Shropshire Telford & Wrekin, was also at the event, and said the project was receiving very positive feedback.
“Our staff say that the people coming through this programme are confident and competent – and this results in improved care for local people. You cannot put a price on that.”
The project includes a social and health care training academy at Telford College, which has supported nearly 300 adults and young people into local NHS trusts and social care roles.
Janet Stephens, Telford College deputy chief executive, said: “To date, this has reduced the local NHS agency pay bill by more than £1 million per annum.”
Hereford, Ludlow and North Shropshire College spoke about the impact of its leadership and management training, as well as occupational maths, and English language training for international healthcare professionals.
So far, around 100 people have either undertaken pre-employment courses to gain a meaningful career in the sector, or taken on a course to boost their career progression opportunities.
Shrewsbury Colleges Group highlighted the work it is doing to deliver pre-employment modules and introductions to working in the health sector, providing unique training opportunities and inspiring the next generation of health workers.
And SBC Training explained how its introduction to adult social care courses, plus leadership and management modules for professionals, was making a different. The company is also helping prospective NHS workers to develop their digital skills.
Guests were shown how the virtual reality headsets allow candidates to compare their expectation of jobs in NHS and social care with reality by simulating realistic environments in hospital wards and people’s homes.
Creative Engagement Group, which has developed the bespoke software, said it gave people chance to experience the emotion of life in a front-line setting in a ‘complete and total immersive setting’.
Pictured: Kirsty Evans sampled some of the virtual and augmented reality technology during a visit to Telford College