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Recruitment and retention to enable delivery

The aim of the project was to enable recruitment to, and the retention of, health and care professionals 

The project was an innovative proposal designed to address both immediate and longer-term workforce needs in the south west of England by the Association of Colleges – South West Bridgwater.  R2D was piloted in Devon and Somerset.

It was designed by health and care providers and further education colleges (FECs).  R2D offered a scalable approach to addressing some of the fundamental needs of providers and employees and allowed selected pairs of further education colleges (FECs) and foundation trusts, to pilot, accelerate and widen developments to meet emerging workforce development needs: opening up progression routes into associate and professional roles.  it was outcome based and offered high value for money (vfm). 

 R2D developed out of the recognition that while the further education and training system was central to the health and care sector’s future workforce development needs, its profile and role was not commonly understood.  R2D aimed to raise awareness, and demonstrate the role, of further education colleges in workforce development, testing new approaches to education and training for the health and care sector.

Whilst based on a generic framework, R2D was flexible, and was designed to be adaptable to local labour market conditions, allowing local solutions to workforce development and skills needs to be fashioned.  By using existing successful provider-college partnerships it has been possible to quickly operationalise R2D.  Beyond the initial funding period, R2D is expected to become a permanent feature of the region’s education and training landscape.

The project sought to support the sector’s workforce development needs by strengthening the recruitment and retention of:

  1. Young people and mature learners who often under-achieved during their time in compulsory education, and who as a result lack the formal qualifications (including in many cases English and mathematics) to gain entry to degree-level professions, including nursing.
  2. Existing health and care employees working as, for example, health care assistants (e.g. pay bands 3 or 4) who desire career progression but are prevented from progressing into degree required professional roles due to a lack of formal qualifications (including functional skills in English and mathematics). Association of Colleges – South West Bridgwater.  

For example, building on their prior qualifications and experience, one aim was to use ‘bridging programmes’ to allow access to degree-level learning.

The project also facilitated the exchange of knowledge and best practice, enabling cross-fertilisation and sharing between colleges and Trusts.

Whilst the project was being undertaken, Ian Munro, Regional Director, Association of Colleges – South West Bridgwater said: 

‘Building on three college-provider partnership operating in Devon and Somerset, R2D is enabling local solutions to be developed and tested in order to meet regional and national workforce development needs. By, for example, linking information, advice and guidance to progression pathways and the introduction of bridging programmes, current employees of, and new entrants to, the health and care sector are being given new opportunities for personal development.’

The project was completed in April 2016.


Following a review of the project, the following achievements, benefits and lessons were identified:

Key achievements:

Since R2D was commissioned the following has been achieved:

  • An acceleration in the development of new vocational pathways for staff aspiring to, or in, associate professional roles.
  • Broadening (both in terms of number of individuals and sponsoring organisations) recruitment to new vocational pathways.
  • Increasing the number of learners undertaking training at NVQ Level 5 and above.
  • Identification, development and operation of new programmes and associated activities, which will be sustained beyond the life of the project.
  • Significant shared benefits arising from a strengthening of the partnerships between colleges and foundation trusts.
  • The sharing of information and practice between the colleges and trusts leading to organisational learning and reducing the costs and risks associated with the development and introduction of new programmes.
  • Enhanced organisational and collective understanding of the challenges and opportunities arising from joint working. E.g. colleges-trusts-higher education institutions.

Benefits identified:

The programmes delivered benefits in relation to:

  1. Improving the awareness and recruitment of learners: learner numbers across of a range of areas have increased
  2. Improving individuals and their retention: while it is too early to offer detailed case specific evidence, previous studies have shown that increasing levels of education and training is an important factor leading to improved rates of employee satisfaction and workforce retention
  3. Improving organisations: linked (2), improve skills levels are generally found to be associated with improvement in the effectiveness of organisations
  4. Long-term improvement: the training and development undertaken by participants through the R2D suite of programme is expected to lead to improvements in employee productivity, both in the immediate, and longer-term
  5. Whole system improvement: R2D project is based on a ‘whole system approach’, bringing together education and training institutions, employees and employers to create improvements to the system of education and training, and leading to long-lasting gain.

Lessons learned:

The most significant area of learning relates to working with HEIs. Based on their understanding of what would be accepted by specific HEIs, including engagement with a national working group, new bridging programme were developed by two colleges. Unfortunately, despite initial assurances, the HEI decided not prepared to accept vocational learning linked with appropriate workplace experience as evidence of the individual’s suitability for entry onto a higher education course. In hindsight, as one college lead noted, they would in future reverse the process and commence the development of any planned activity by working with the HEI from the start, rather than relying on their understating of the institution’s position and previously accepted progression agreements as the starting point. However, the issue also highlight the problem that different HEIs view the issue differently and what is acceptable to one, is not necessarily acceptable to another.


For more information, please contact Ian Munro.

This Page was last updated on: 20 July 2017

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