Conrad Parke talks us through how the 'skills matching' work started with a specific focus and built from there.
Can you describe this process of starting with a specific goal of getting health professionals back into employment and seeing success from that?
I’d previously worked with the Hospital Trust for a number years exploring different ways of helping the Trust improve quality of life in the neighbourhoods that the Trust served. We attempted to do this through the traditional approach of developing a broad ranging strategy that covered all the usual topics and issues – i.e. education, employment, housing, environment etc. Yet, despite the full support of the Trust, it went nowhere largely because having such a broad strategy spread our resources too thinly and diluted the impact we might be having.
While we were doing this, a group of students from the Planning Masters at UoB were studying the same neighbourhoods looking for specific projects/opportunities for ‘unlocking local assets’ and they identified the untapped potential of people living in the community with overseas health qualifications. So when USE-IT! was being designed we decided to pursue this ‘specific goal for delivering the skills matching objective. We did this because not only because of the student’s findings but also because the Trust, like all NHS institutions, has a chronic problem in recruiting and retaining qualified staff and we felt that matching USE-IT! with a specific hospital priority would increase the chance of making an impact.
At what point did you realise that this approach was working and you could build on it in different ways, and how did you take that next step?
Realisation that the approach was working came when over 100 residents with overseas health qualifications signed up to the programme in the first twelve months – and this without us having to do very much. The reason it worked so quickly was because the specialist organisations we needed to spread the word about USE-IT! and then support people through to the hospital already existed. All we had needed to do was build those organisations into a partnership/pathway. The next step was to then explain this process to the Hospital Trust’s Board of Trustees and Senior Management team to get their buy-in and support for trying this model with other priority groups.
How might you imagine this funding and support structure might be applied in other sectors and industries?
The idea of ‘inclusive growth’, i.e. making sure all elements of society benefit from economic opportunity, is now well established and the potential benefits well understood. However, the actual mechanism for achieving it is still beyond the experience of many sectors and industries even if they are fully signed up to the principals. With USE-IT! we have demonstrated that there is a low cost and sustainable way of sourcing employment opportunities in high -need communities as long as sectors/industries are prepared to work in genuine partnership with specialist community-based organisations.