Report of the Strategic Director, Corporate Services and Governance
The Committee received a report on the age profile of the Council’s current workforce and to advise of action being implemented to support succession planning and issues relating to an ageing workforce.
29% of the Council’s workforce are in the 55 – 64 age bracket. There are a number of services with a significant number of employees aged 55 and over, in particular Environment and Fleet, Property and Assets, and Integrated Adults and Social Care. This presents challenges for the Council in relation to succession planning to ensure that services have staff with the right skills and experience to deliver and effective service.
A number of apprenticeship programmes and roles are being implemented in order to support succession planning and ensure services are developing staff with the necessary skills for the future.
These are as follows:
· Children’s Social Care and Adults Social Care have introduced a Social Work Apprenticeship Programme and have appointed 4 apprentices to date.
· Adult Social Care are also in the process of recruiting three Trainee Social Workers. Successful candidates will be offered a career pathway which includes undertaking a social work apprenticeship.
· Highways & Waste Services have introduced an Urban Driver Apprenticeship Programme which is being offered to 12 employees across the service. This is to support succession planning due to the number of staff close to retirement and also the current shortage of HGV drivers nationally.
· Fleet and Environment have introduced an Arborist apprenticeship which is currently being recruited to.
In addition to apprenticeships, other job roles and development opportunities are being offered, for example within Adult Social Care three Graduate Management Roles have been established and the service has also appointed two Kickstart placements which is a government scheme providing funding to create new jobs for young people aged 16-24 who are at risk of long term unemployment. Adult Social care also offers T-Level placements. T-Levels are a two year qualification equivalent to 3 A-Levels and incorporate classroom learning and 45-day work placements. This allows students to gain practical experience and an understanding of the job roles within their chosen sector.
Workforce Development are also currently leading on or supporting a number of initiatives to support succession planning as follows:
· In relation to Social Work, the council is part of the regional group developing and supporting the Aspiring Leaders and Manager Programme. Two cohorts have been delivered across 12 local authorities with 2 learners from each organisation. The third programme is due to start in May 2022. This progamme is specifically for Social Workers.
· Work is also underway to develop a Leadership and Management Programme in line with the corporate programme currently being rolled out to Service Directors and Service Managers. This will aim to support employees already in a management role, and those interested in moving into a management role to gain the necessary skills and knowledge.
Further work to support succession planning is currently in development as follows:
· Social Care Career Pathways are being developed which will include apprenticeships at Level 2 through to Level 6
· Joint Health and Social Care Apprenticeships are being developed in conjunctions with the NHS QE Foundation Trust
· Adult Social Care are planning to establish a Trainee Occupational Therapist role
· Within Construction Services, Workforce Development are working with the service to develop five-year plans across the different trades to ensure the service is recruiting the necessary number of apprentices to address future skills gaps
· Waste Services are introducing new roles below the level of supervisor. This will support succession planning by enabling staff to be developed with a view to progressing to a supervisor role as staff retire. A similar approach is being developed within Highways in relation not the Team Leader roles.
· Career starter apprenticeship are being explored in service areas which previously have not had apprenticeship roles, for example Trading Standards
· Leisure and Libraries are currently undergoing a transformational review, and this includes exploring options for both entry level posts and management career pathways.
A comprehensive review of the Council’s approach to recruitment and retention is currently underway. The review will incorporate a robust appraisal of marketing and communication methods, employee benefits, career pathways, including our approach to work experience and university placements in a bid to encourage early interaction with Gateshead as a local employer of choice.
In addition, the review will evaluate current community engagement methods ensuring there is a strong link between the Thrive Agenda, the Health and Wellbeing strategy and Gateshead as an employer. Increasing our presence within the local community and actively encouraging applications will also positively support our ambition to increase workforce representation, which is reflective of the community we serve.
The actions which are being taken were welcomed, it was suggested that we could also look at inter-generational job sharing so younger people shadowing those already in the job. It was also requested that a further update be brought back to the Committee with a split around gender and other different types of equalities data.
It was queried whether it would be possible for children to experience areas of work in services such as Highways or would it be an issue with regards to Health and Safety.
It was suggested that the Council need to look at vacancies within each service area and need to dig deep to see why we are losing workforce in Gateshead if they are going to other Councils who are paying better salaries so we can look to address whats going on.
It seems that employees in leisure seem to do one job in leisure then go and do another job in leisure but it doesn’t address the issues in leisure. If some of the issues are around bad planning we need to address this as well. We also need to identify pay and conditions. Overall we definitely need to look at it in a different way.
It was noted that it is fair to say we face challenges on recruitment across the Board.
It was queried whether job vacancies are advertised with an open ended end date. It was noted that some vacancies have been listed with an open ended closing date, however, some do have specific closing dates.
It was queried whether when people are leaving we are asking why they are leaving. It was noted that we do have a process for exit interviews, however, this process is being strengthened at the moment as whilst the process has been in place for a long time it hasn’t necessarily been consistent across all areas.
It was noted that one thing local government is good at is having officers who have transferable skills, is there open days for the Council where we can get former local government officers to talk about their roles, something that isn’t always projected through adverts. It was also suggested that we need to look at pay grades, it was noted that a recent advert for a petrol station operative was £27,000. It was noted that we are planning a recruitment event jointly with the QE and are also looking to take part in an event run by Gateshead College.
It was queried whether there was any data to see how we compare with our regional neighbours. It was noted that we don’t have comparable data as some of our neighbours no longer deliver the same types of services. It was noted that we do minimise the number of agency staff, however we do have some issues as some social workers do not want to be directly employed and would rather work through an agency.
In terms of work experience we are looking to overhaul this and are looking to engage with parents we feel if the parents are engaged it helps the young person as well.
It was noted that during the pandemic a few people were redeployed and found new interests, it would be good to see if people feel that have a different vocation there was support there for them to carry this out.
It was noted that some of these roles were directly related to Covid response, now that we are in recovery there are some roles, such as the Covid support officers who were undertaking some lower level enforcement work have been retained and offered a longer term contract. It was also noted that some staff who were redeployed into the community hubs and have stayed their long term, services have tried to facilitate this as far as possible.
It was queried whether the Council are using its full allocation for the apprenticeship levy, it was noted that we haven’t been but we do have an arrangement in place where we can passport to voluntary organisations, to date there has only been a couple of levy transfers as the governance has only recently been finalised.
It was suggested that we have an annual update on this item as part of the work programme, including gender profile. It was noted it would also be interesting to see if there are any links to sickness numbers.
It was queried whether we go into schools maybe to do “A day in the life” kind of presentation.
RESOLVED -(i) That the comments of the Committee be noted.
(ii) That an annual update on this area of work be brought to the Committee