Schools and community engagement

Family in waiting room

Establishing sustainable partnerships across your local community is a great way to showcase your organisation as an employer of choice. It can also help you strengthen your workforce supply, create a workforce which is reflective of your local community and highlight the variety of opportunities available in the NHS. 

Understand your local community

Use our measuring up tool to compare the demographics of your local community and your workforce. By understanding which community groups you are currently not fully engaged with, and focusing your efforts in these areas, you can start to recruit from areas where candidates may not have considered a career in the NHS.  

Reach out

Contact a variety of different organisations across your community. If you already have an established health ambassadors programme, make use of this network. Once you have widened the reach of your engagement activities, you will begin to establish your organisation as an employer of choice, opening opportunities to a diverse future workforce. Consider making contact with:

  • community centres and organisations
  • local charities or organisations who focus on supporting specific groups in your community
  • schools, colleges and other educational institutions.

Build an offer

There are many different ways you can offer experience within your workplace. Consider establishing a health ambassador programme, where staff volunteer their time to promote their role, your organisation and the NHS, or a partnership with the Careers and Enterprise Company. Think about whether your organisation may be able to offer internships, work experience, apprenticeships or volunteering opportunities.

Internships or work experience

An internship is a period of work offered by an organisation, usually lasting for a fixed period. You can offer these to anyone who may be seeking to strengthen their work experience, for example those who have been unemployed for a length of time, or current students and recent school, college or university leavers.

Organisations should consider a range of internships or work experience opportunities, including supported internships or apprenticeships for those with learning disabilities.

Apprenticeships

Offering an apprenticeship or traineeship programme can be a cost-effective way to create a skilled, flexible and motivated workforce. These programmes can offer employment opportunities to candidates who may not have been able to access employment in the NHS through other routes. Apprenticeships can reduce training and recruitment costs and improve retention. You can read more about apprenticeship policy and view case studies and resources on our apprenticeship web pages.    

Volunteering

Offering volunteering experience is another way that your organisation can provide work experience opportunities to people who would not otherwise have access to them. Volunteering experience differs from apprenticeships, work experience and traineeships, as it generally offers no financial incentive to those taking part. 

Evaluating success

It is important that organisations consider evaluation early on in their planning. By setting clear objectives from the outset, and embedding a robust evaluation plan, you can ensure that you can measure the effectiveness of your engagement with schools and communities at key stages. This will help you identify successes and areas that you could seek to strengthen as you develop your programme. You can learn more about planning and carrying out a robust evaluation on our health and wellbeing pages.

Health ambassadors

Health ambassadors are employees from across the NHS who visit schools, colleges and local communities to engage with young people and those traditionally furthest away from the labour market. Health ambassadors can talk about their experience of working or studying in the healthcare sector, in their own organisation and the NHS generally.

Ambassadors can support your organisation in highlighting the range of careers available across the whole of the NHS, including those not traditionally well-known roles, and help your organisation promote itself to applicants who may not have previously had easy access to the NHS as a potential employer.

Aims of the programme

  • Develop young people’s interest in health-related careers, particularly those who may not be aware of the variety of roles available.   
  • Promote the health sector as a career choice for young people and those furthest from the labour market.   
  • Support the raising of standards and young people’s attainment. 
  • Encourage young people to aspire to reach their full potential. 
  • Develop teachers’ professional understanding of the health sector.   
  • Support work-related and applied learning requirements in schools.

Top tips

  • Engage with schools across your local area, not just those you have existing relationships with.
  • Promote opportunities to become an ambassador within your organisation, and promote awareness of the importance of staff being involved across the organisation.
  • Co-ordinate your health ambassadors across your organisation to ensure they receive consistent support and materials can be shared.

Benefits to your organisation

  • Establish yourself locally as an employer of choice for the future workforce.
  • Ensure that the future workforce is aware of a wide variety of careers available in the NHS.
  • Strength your workforce supply, especially where there may be an ageing workforce in your organisation.
  • Provide young people who may otherwise not have had access, knowledge of, or experience of work, the opportunity to learn about careers in healthcare and gain experience of them.
  • Develop your current staff, improve their confidence and public speaking capabilities.

You may find it useful to partner with Inspiring the Future who can help you to connect volunteers from your organisation with schools and colleges in your local community. You can also connect with your local authority to establish a career engagement hub or consider partnership working with Jobcentre Plus, who also offer ambassadors for the NHS.

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