The challenge

running track starting blocks

24 / 9 / 2015 11am

In brief:

  • Workforce supply is a key challenge facing the NHS
  • The NHS has an aging workforce, and young people are currently under represented
  • A diverse workforce is needed to cope with the demands of changing patient needs
  • A shift is needed to challenge existing attitudes to employing young people 

The evidence

"With 1 in 5 vacancies in the UK difficult to fill because of a lack of the right skills in the labour market, the importance of developing the skilled and experienced workforce of tomorrow cannot be overstated. Employers should be empowered to lead this agenda and open up their workplaces to more young people.” (UKCES)

Research suggests that young people have difficulty finding work in the UK. The UKCES Catch 16-24 report reveals that while total unemployment is at 6 per cent, the number of young people unemployed is much higher, at 16.9 per cent. 40 per cent of all unemployed people are aged under 25 and a young person (aged 16-24) in the UK is currently more than three and a half times more likely to be unemployed than someone over the age of 25.

Our Age in the NHS infographic reveals that there are fewer young people in the NHS compared with the English workforce as a whole:

  • 6 per cent of the NHS workforce are under 25 compared with 12 per cent of England’s working population
  • 46 per cent of the NHS workforce is over 45 compared with 41 per cent across all sectors.  

The CIPD report Employers: Learning to work with young people and feedback from NHS staff at one of our recent workshops has revealed a number of barriers to employing young people. These include employers being reluctant to take risks in employing someone with less or no experience and preferring the ease of recruiting someone who can hit the ground running, along with preconceptions about the negative attitude of young people and employers feeling there is too much work involved in recruiting and training young people, which has a negative effect on existing staff capacity and service delivery.

A national context

Developing the support workforce and investing in long term workforce development are prioritised in two national strategic frameworks from Health Education England, Talent for Care and Widening Participation. Both frameworks include the recruitment of young people as part of a strategy for strengthening and developing the NHS workforce and making it fit for the future.


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