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Hidden Talents programme harnesses untapped skills and knowledge from local community

Tuesday, 18 April 2017 08:43

Hidden Talents 1A new programme has been described as ‘a win-win’ for its positive impact on both the people who’ve taken part in it and the NHS Trust that it was implemented in.

Growing Points’ Hidden Talents programme is a scheme which offers support to local refugees and asylum seekers during the recruitment process at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

The Trust, along with the Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust, is home to the National Skills Academy for Health’s West Yorkshire Excellence Centre, which aims to improve the quality and accessibility of training for the region’s healthcare support workforce. 

Tapping into a ‘a hard-to-reach sector’ 

The Trust initially signed up to the programme as there were a number of unfilled positions in their nursing and midwifery team, said Gill Chapman, Lead Nurse for Nursing and Midwifery Workforce and head of the scheme at the Trust.

‘We are trying to tap every pool of talent that will be able to come and work for us, and the refugee and asylum seeker community was a hard-to-reach sector’ she said. ‘It was a gift for us. We were delighted to have been asked to participate by Growing Points, because we didn’t see problems—we saw opportunities.’

The refugee charity City of Sanctuary refers suitable applicants to Growing Points, who then encourages them to meet with Chapman’s team at the Trust. The Trust team evaluate each applicant’s right to work and their qualifications and hold workshops where they give an overview of available roles and address the recruitment process, including sessions on completing the application form and demonstrating best-practice interview techniques. Chapman is keen to point out that entry requirements are never modified or lowered in any way.

‘There are no reasonable adjustments made on standards,’ she said. ‘Where the reasonable adjustments are made is within the recruitment process. It’s not that they haven’t got the talent or the values—it’s just that they may not be able to show us without that extra support.’

If the applicant is successful in all stages of the recruitment process, they are then allocated, based on their experience and qualifications, to an appropriate role. The majority are recruited on to the 13-month Clinical Support Worker apprenticeship programme within the Trust, which aims to train around 300 apprentices a year.

A workforce that reflects the community

According to Migration Yorkshire, asylum seekers are housed across six local authority areas in the Leeds City Region. Home Office figures show that, as of October 2016, there were 2,893 asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their housing claim, while 2,830 people were being accommodated and 63 people were receiving subsistence-only support (i.e. no accommodation). In addition, 16 in every 1,000 new GP registrations in Leeds City Region are made by people who have previously lived abroad.

The region is changing, and Chapman said that it’s the Trust’s ambition to have a workforce that mirrors the growing population it’s a part of

‘On the whole, the average profile for somebody working within the Trust is white British—and we want to shift that to reflect the community. So these candidates come in—not only do they have the values and the ability to care—they also come with so many skills that I don’t have: they can speak a number of languages, and they may be looking after a patient who’s had a similar life experience to them.

‘My son got run over in Cyprus, and one of the doctors [at the hospital] was British, and when I saw him, I just felt so much better because—it wasn’t just the language—it was knowing that he understood. If there was somebody on our ward who was from Eritrea, for example, maybe a patient would feel they wouldn’t have to say as much because they would understand. And that’s what we’re hoping—that they would improve a patient’s experience with all those things they come with.’

Second cohort takes flight

The programme’s first year saw eight candidates successfully complete the recruitment process and proceed onto the Clinical Support Worker apprenticeship programme, with several of those achieving their Care Certificates. This year’s cohort of seven are in the midst of the recruitment process, and will hopefully be looking to start apprenticeships later on in the year.   

In that time, Chapman said she’s watched candidates grow and develop in a number of ways.

‘There was this one particular person,’ Chapman said. “At first, she didn’t make eye contact—and some of that may be cultural—but she made herself very small. And actually, when I reflect back, I couldn’t remember her at that first workshop we held.  

‘Now, she was one of the people who spoke with the Guardian about the project. She’s full of confidence, and she’s just so proud of where she’s already got to. And I can see leadership skills coming out in her. She’s very positive and she’s hugely grateful. It’s just lovely to see.

‘This programme is just the right thing to do; and you see that, after only a few months into their training, their confidence just grows—and the fact that they think, “Yes I can!”—it’s just fabulous. It’s my favourite part of my job.

Seeking more apprenticeship opportunities

Chapman says the Trust is looking ahead to the outcome of the pilot nursing apprenticeship scheme in Birmingham.

‘We’re hoping, once the standards for this are released, that this could be one of the ways that we will deliver [new nurses],’ she said. ‘Some of the people from these communities might have the qualifications and experience to enter that course.

‘Apprenticeships are a massive opportunity for the individuals, but it’s a massive opportunity for us to develop people in the way that we want them developed,’ she said. ‘At the end, they should be exactly what we want, because we’ve put in that effort and that energy, and the people have put in the effort and the energy.’

For now, Chapman said, the Trust will keep the door open for Hidden Talents.

‘It’s a win-win, and I think we’re the biggest winners in this partnership,’ Chapman said. ‘I think we get the best opportunities from this. And of course, individually, the candidates who are successful, we don’t know how far they’ll go, because they are so determined to do well.’