Potential Career Paths from a Health UTC
I want to tell a short story which has led to perhaps the boldest new skills project that our city has embarked on for a long time.
Last summer I went to an 80th birthday party in Gloucestershire. Towards the end of it former Education Secretary Ken Baker asked me about the relationship between employment trends in Gloucestershire, and the skills training that we provided in the county. I explained the biggest gap was in Health: we were, for example, importing nurses from as far away as Portugal and the Philippines.
So Ken, who is Chairman of the Baker Dearing Trust that approves and funds the capital expenditure for UTCs, then told me about the first (recently opened) Health Futures University Technical College in the country, in West Bromwich. It teaches 14-18 year olds conventional GCSEs and A levels, but also Health and Care Btec vocational exams, while providing a wide range of work experience from different health sector employers. Students will go on to study further vocational qualifications or degrees for a wide variety of different health sector jobs and careers – as the infographic above shows. The West Brom UTC is already oversubscribed. And that got me thinking.
For why shouldn’t we provide exactly the same opportunity that Birmingham youngsters now have at the West Brom Health Futures UTC in Gloucestershire, giving them the skills to win some of the best jobs in our county – but for which few of our youth have the right skills when they leave school or college?
Fast forward and two group meetings later, with visits by Ken Baker and Jack Rickard of the Trust, and after many smaller discussions, and today the University of Gloucestershire, the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and I are announcing that Gloucester intends to bid for a Gloucestershire Health University Technical College.
This is very bold. And it’s only the start of a long journey. But what this does show is the amazing enthusiasm from our NHS Trusts, University, and other health employers, from GPs to dentists and care homes (see some sample quotes later on). Everyone has been positive so far.
This also captures the extraordinary coincidence that the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital (GRH) has the space to accommodate the UTC, which gives a very close location to the city centre – a short walk from both bus and train station. My announcement yesterday that in late 2017 GWR will open the station on the Hospital side of the railway line (for the first time since its Victorian construction) is a happy coincidence, with convenient cross county (and even beyond) transport links to the UTC.
And it’s another happy coincidence that two weeks ago the University of Glos application to relocate their Business School to Gloucester and increase their sports facilities with the Aspire Trust behind Estcourt Road, was approved by the City Council planning committee: UTC students could use the university sports facilities.
However none of us should underestimate the complexities of the bid application, on which the University will lead. There is a different journey for potential parents and pupils too: moving schools at 14 is still new to us in the UK, even though it’s been successful in Germany for a long time. Employers and the University see the great opportunity for skills and work experience, future careers and aspirations – but a UTC will only succeed if parents and their children see it this way too.
Alongside A Levels and GCSEs students at the UTC will also study subjects like Health and Social Care, and work on hands-on projects involving a range of potential health careers. This could include a 6-week look at what happens when a person gets in a car accident, following their journey through emergency care to surgery, and then to rehabilitation. The students would learn about all of the health professionals the patient meets along the way – which should raise their interest in many different future opportunities.
Our bid reflects the vital importance and size of the health sector in our county – almost 50,000 jobs in Gloucestershire – and recognition that there isn’t enough training for the skills needed at the moment in the county. ‘Much needs to be done to address this’, said Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Chief Executive Dr Frank Harsent, ‘and a UTC focused on health futures, with work experience in a variety of different institutions and roles, will make a huge difference both to recruitment and individual opportunities.’
We’ve done some research, and key employers have decided the case is strong enough to explore a bid. There is a long way to go but this is potentially an incredibly exciting educational development for the health sector in our county. It should lead to many more opportunities for Gloucestershire youth to work in health, and reduce our need to import health workers from abroad.
I’ve given a rather long list of reactions from educational and health organisations below.
This story – and sorry it’s longer than usual – shows that going to celebrate an 80 year old’s birthday can have unexpected consequences: and I’d welcome your feedback and reactions to this intention to bid for a Health UTC – let me know what you think on firstname.lastname@example.org.
University of Gloucestershire Vice-Chancellor Stephen Marston
“Given the importance of the health service, we are keen to work with the Hospitals Trust and other NHS partners to help ensure they can recruit the staff they need to provide excellent patient care, particularly through increasing the supply of qualified nurses. Sponsoring a University Technical College in Gloucester with a focus on health therefore fits well with our wider goals….So the University is happy to play a leading role in pulling together a bid to form a UTC. It is still early days, and there is a lot of work ahead, but we will be working closely with a wide variety of partners to develop a strong proposal.”
Chief Executive of the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Dr Frank Harsent
“We have the space, and if the bid is successful the capital expenditure is provided by the Baker Dearing Trust. This would be the best possible investment in people and health, and the Hospitals Trust board has approved the concept. I will give it my personal maximum support as a member of the University board after I have retired from the NHS.’
Baker Dearing Chairman Lord Baker
“I welcome the enthusiasm from Gloucester that Richard has brought together and believe this is exactly the sort of need your county should be addressing, and where a UTC can make a big difference. We look forward to a strong bid.”
Councillor Paul McLain, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People on the Gloucestershire County Council
“This is an exciting and innovative proposal that meets a real need in our education system. It’s got the potential to make a massive difference, not just locally, but regionally and nationally, as well as supporting regeneration in Gloucester.”
West Bromwich Health Futures Principal Rob Fell
“Having met everyone involved in the discussions and sharing my experience of opening and running a Health Futures UTC, where we are already oversubscribed, I would say this (the Gloucester bid) has every chance of being a compelling bid’.
Mary Hutton, Accountable Officer at the NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group
“Workforce development is really important for the future sustainability of our health system. The CCG is working actively to support the education and training needs of our healthcare workforce, and to develop, recruit and retain qualified staff. We are pleased to support this exciting initiative which will help us develop a skilled workforce, enabling us to continue to provide high quality care to people living in Gloucestershire.”
Paul Jennings, Chief Executive of Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust
“I fully support this proposal for Gloucestershire. The UTC could give young people an early career focus in health by combining academic study with real-life work projects…I look forward to working with local partner organisations to help make sure we develop a strong and compelling bid.”
Tola Opaleye, Manager of Gloucester Dental Care
“The positive responses to the bid are very encouraging. I have a strong feeling that this can be done!”