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By 2025, it has been predicted that England alone will need 718,000 care workers to manage the needs of an additional 1.5 million people aged 65 or over. But with recruitment and retention a key concern in the sector (not to mention the consequences that may result from Brexit on the one in 20 care workers, who are migrants from the EU), it is important to look at where these additional employees are going to come from.

There is one obvious solution – namely, our younger generation. Recruiting young talent should be a vital element of any care business’ strategy - addressing the skills gap by recruiting staff who will be a part of the life-long workforce, through creating personal development opportunities. Progression prospects are crucial for retention and as the average staff turnover rate is currently running at a worrying level of 25.4%, according to a Skills for Care report, this is something that the industry should be looking to improve.

However, there is work to be done if we are to initially bring and keep fresh, young talent to the sector on a permanent basis.

Crucially, the industry needs to collectively raise awareness of the benefits, opportunities and personal rewards of having a lifelong career in care, as opposed to perceptions that the sector is about part-time, short term work.

Businesses, key industry figures, employers and employees all have a role to play in engaging with school leavers and highlighting the career prospects and benefits. Whether this connection involves care home managers visiting their local schools to talk about career opportunities, holding work experience for pupils to find out more about the realities of care work, or individual businesses celebrating the achievements of their apprentices - we need to invest time and resources in reaching and engaging this age group.

One of the most effective ways to offer career opportunities to the younger generation is through apprenticeships.

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Apprenticeships set out a clear training path of learning, development and qualifications and give learners fixed goals to work towards, helping to keep them engaged.

With the new Government Apprenticeship Levy coming into force from April 2017, businesses will soon have access to funds, which have to be spent on training and development.

The Levy applies to all UK businesses in the public and private sectors and is payable for companies with an annual pay bill of £3million or more. Employers with an annual pay bill less than this won’t have to pay the Levy charges, but will have to contribute 10% of any training costs, with the Government funding the remainder.

At Connect2Care, we strongly believe that care business owners should take full advantage of the funding made available from the Levy; the payments are compulsory so let’s make the most of them – not to mention that the Levy can help employers reduce their long term recruitment bills as they invest in a longer term workforce.

We also need to look afresh as to how training and development budgets can be used to best effect within each organisation. The changes around the introduction of the Levy provide the chance for care employers to re-evaluate their development programmes, training structures and engagement strategies - something which might not otherwise have been done - to ensure that their businesses are seen as aspirational places to work for Generation Z.

In addition to this, the Government has also abolished National Insurance contributions for apprentices under the age of 25 on a Government funded apprenticeship programme. This will help to support employers by making additional savings, which can be re-invested in further training and development or front line services.

Events such as National Apprenticeship Week have been used to great effect to raise awareness of apprenticeship opportunities. However, engagement strategies cannot just be limited to one week a year - especially as our research has found that over half of school leavers wouldn’t consider undertaking an apprenticeship.

The care sector and the individual employers which operate within the industry need to invest time and resources to ensure they stand out from the crowd and attract a new generation of compassionate and caring team members for the workforce of the future.

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