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WORKFORCE PLANNING John Thatcher – Training Director, Eastwood Park

Succession planning and workforce development

This article explores strategies for succession planning and workforce development, within the following key areas: Promoting healthcare engineering and estates management; attracting new talent; the complexity of designing career progression; developing existing staff; commissioning provision; new delivery models.

Healthcare engineering and estate management are highly specialised and technical functions, delivered within healthcare facilities, either by in-house resources or outsourced to specialist service providers. Worldwide, the workforce is predominantly ageing and male, with recruitment and retention proving a challenge globally; partially due to limited awareness of engineering and estates career opportunities, as well as a lack of relevant technical skills held by young adults within the health sector. Dr Peter Jarritt, President of the Institute

of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM) said: “The role of technology in the provision of healthcare is set to increase rapidly in all sectors from acute care to primary and social care. This will present a challenge to the engineering and technical workforce within this sector. It will require new skills as medical devices and computers become more integrated and patients take on more responsibility for their care. While the management of equipment throughout its life

‘More needs to be done around articulating healthcare engineering as a key career route and encouraging uptake of science related qualifications.’


cycle is important, the need to provide services directly to the patient will also increase.”

This situation is further compounded by

the limited availability of specialised training and progressive career development opportunities, making succession planning and workforce development an issue for both employers and employees alike. Additionally, the European medical

technology sector wants regulation consistency with the USA. This has been proposed through Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnerships (TTIPs).1

This could

have a significant impact globally on medical device compliance training. Within the UK, potential employees have

little information concerning career opportunities within the field of healthcare engineering and estates management. This, coupled with a low uptake of maths and science subjects in secondary and tertiary education, particularly among females, is limiting the pool of potential new talent. In half of all state schools in the UK, there are no females studying Physics at A level. Perhaps as a consequence of this, just 8.7% of British engineers are female, according to the trade association Engineering UK. Compared with 30% in Latvia and 40% in China. According to Sir Richard Olver, chairman of BAE systems: “The UK has fewer engineers than anywhere else in Europe… on the world stage it is worse.”2 More needs to be done around

articulating healthcare engineering as a key career route and encouraging uptake of science related qualifications. Sarah Sillars, OBE, CEO of Semta 3

said: “We

need to break out of the box and present the possibilities in an engaging and exciting manner. Young people are convinced that the subjects themselves are boring – even if they are good at them. Our job is to show the excitement and reward that a career in science and engineering can bring.” Appropriate resources and

recruitment campaigns need to be designed to promote healthcare

engineering and estates management jobs and to clearly articulate the longer-term career opportunities. These need to reach the potential pool of talent using the most appropriate medium for the required target group.

The use of social media is a key platform in engaging young people and increasingly adults; an example being The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) in England, which uses social media as a key recruitment tool for both apprentices and employers. However, to successfully promote

healthcare engineering and estate management as a career the sector needs to ensure that suitable career paths with appropriate training are available.

Attracting new talent Attracting bright new talent to the sector is vital in developing engineers of the future and this can be achieved though apprenticeships and the recruitment of graduates. Apprenticeships, which contain knowledge and competence-based qualifications, prepare new entrants for a specific trade. In some countries, government funding is available to support their education. Over the last four years, the apprenticeship brand has been extended from educational levels 2 and 3 to include higher apprenticeships at levels 4, 5 and 6 and level 7 (Master’s Degree Level) apprenticeships are in development (see Fig. 1).

John Thatcher

John Thatcher is Chief Executive Officer and Training Director at Eastwood Park, a specialist training centre focusing on healthcare engineering, facilities management and support services training and consultancy. Leading Eastwood Park for over 20 years he has been instrumental in developing the curriculum and global customer base. A qualified engineer, teacher and manager, he has a Master’s Degree in Education and is a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. He was awarded Honorary Membership of City & Guilds of London Institute for his work in qualification development and quality assurance.


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