Skills for Health Academy North West


23 / 08 / 2013

The organisation and what we did

Skills for Health Academy North West (SfHANW) works with a host of organisations, including Jobcentre Plus (JCP) and Health Education North West, to help local people who want to work in healthcare. As part of this vision, SfHANW runs pre-employment programmes in Cheshire and Merseyside, Cumbria and Lancashire, and across Greater Manchester to help unemployed adults, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, to attain the skills, values and capacity required in order to secure employment.

The North West region includes some of the most deprived areas of the UK, characterised by high levels of unemployment and restricted social mobility. Involvement in pre-employment programmes was seen as important as it enables employers to meet their public health and citizenship agenda targets, removing barriers to learning and employment and helping to tackle inequality and poverty.

Whilst employment outcomes are predominantly aimed at supporting recruitment in the health and social care sector, employment in other sectors and progression onto further learning, are also viewed as successful outcomes given the link between deprivation and health.  

How we did it

All programmes are run in partnership with JCP, the sector itself and training providers. Joint funding models are in place with those providers involved whereby they, the provider, draw down Skills Funding Agency (SFA) funding to support any academic delivery. Health Education North West funds the Academy team and any/all work-ready requirements for participants such as the provision of uniforms, occupational health checks and, when required, Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.

Pre-employment models

SfHANW currently runs the following two pre-employment programmes:

1. The health and employment programme:

This 20-hour programme aims to inspire, motivate and empower learners. It includes sessions on teamwork, communication, e-learning, CV preparation, job applications and health and wellbeing.
The programme aims to help learners take their next steps to new opportunities – for example, employment, education and training, voluntary work or a further pre-employment course.

2. The 14-week pre-employment programme:

Participants are nominated for this programme by JCP based on eligibility criteria. Following the recruitment and selection process, when accepted onto this 14-week pre-employment programme, participants complete a 4-week period of college study. Subjects covered during this period include health and safety, confidentiality, infection control, equality and diversity, team building and communications skills.

Attendance at college is followed by a 10-week period of work-based training in, for example, a healthcare assistant or administrative assistant role. Whilst on the programme, participants continue to receive their benefits and the work-based training enables them to gain the skills and experience that health employers are looking for when recruiting new staff. During the training, participants experience the challenges of undertaking new tasks, and working as part of team that cares for, or provides services for, patients and their families.

A DBS check, occupational health check and request for two references are completed before participants are eligible to begin the period of work-based training - these checks are managed by Academy staff working in partnership with those supporting the programmes. Participants are also required to attend a trust induction day and a full risk assessment is carried out in the workplace.

Pre-employment programmes are supported by the Academy’s Employment Progression Pathway (EPP) team. This pathway is designed to provide up to six months post-programme support to participants who are seeking work in the health and social care sector. The EPP team runs a number of workshops covering CV preparation, job search, online applications and interview skills, and whilst there is no guarantee of a job at the end of the programme, there is every expectation that the skills gained will enhance career prospects.


The pre-employment team at SfHANW have worked closely with Jobcentre Plus across the North West region since 2004 with outstanding results, demonstrating year on year success in relation to outcomes. In 2011/12 over 72% of participants completed their programme of learning with 70% securing employment, resulting in 252 successful job outcomes. This has resulted in an overall economic impact of £2,633,652 (based on a mean average salary of £10,451).

Over the past eight years, Academy learners have been appointed to a wide variety of job roles, which have included healthcare assistants, theatre support workers, ward clerks, administration assistants, medical record clerks, phlebotomists, and therapy assistants. For many, it has been a life-changing experience.

Cameron’s story

From an early age, Cameron Martin was interested in care work but due to lack of experience was unable secure a position within the sector. After working in a variety of roles within the hospitality sector, which provided him with limited job satisfaction, he decided to apply for a SfHANW pre-employment programme to gain the skills, knowledge and experience required to apply for a job in the NHS.

Cameron was successful in gaining a place on a 14-week pre-employment programme run in partnership with Jobcentre Plus and Salford Royal Hospital and whilst in college he embraced the opportunity, showing a great willingness to learn new skills. Cameron then undertook a 10-week part-time placement at Salford Royal Hospital and during this time he excelled, demonstrating a real commitment to helping support vulnerable patients. Following completion of the pre-employment programme, Cameron applied for, and was successful in being appointed to, a clinical support worker vacancy within the trust. Once Cameron had settled into his new role, the new found confidence he had gained encouraged him to continue with his learning and development and he is now studying to improve his numeracy and literacy skills, with a view to applying for a nursing degree in the future. 

Cameron says: “The journey I have taken has been challenging due to personal issues but throughout it has been enjoyable and rewarding, which has reinforced my career choice. I am very happy within my role, which I feel shows in the service I provide for the patients.”

Cameron was recently nominated by his supervisor for the Adult Learners Week Awards for Health and Social Care 2013 and was awarded runner up in the ‘First Steps into Employment’ category, which demonstrates the huge progress he has made since embarking upon the pre-employment programme. Cameron’s supervisor commented that he “shows great empathy towards the patients in his care” and that “his success has been a great inspiration to others”.

Contact details

For further information on the pre-employment programmes please call the SfHANW team on: 0151 482 5678

or contact Judith McGregor, Head of Programmes

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