Care is the largest employment sector in Fife, with NHS Fife being the largest single employer in the region.
Because of this, the demand for a comprehensive care workforce in Fife and the surrounding areas only continues to grow, and it is imperative that the workforce of the future possesses the correct skills for an evolving digital and technological working environment.
NHS Fife itself recognises this need in its recently published Workforce Strategy: “Increasingly, the workforce across NHS Fife, including those working within the Health and Social Care Partnership, will need to operate within a digital environment, utilising innovative approaches, including digital platforms to support self-management, hospital at home and the delivery of outpatient services.”
Emergence of digital working and digital living
The world we live in continues to grow evermore digital, and our use of and reliance upon technology in our day to day working lives is only increasing. Technology skills are in higher demand than ever.
But it’s not just our personal lives that have adapted to technological advances, this is also true of our working lives, too. As the digital economy continues to develop and grow, the level and sophistication of technology we expect to encounter in our daily working lives also continues to increase.
Upgrading the digital infrastructure of the sector and the technology available to care professionals is not enough, however.
Care workers need to understand the future of healthcare – including the digital Innovations that are now part of their job role. Being digitally skilled and having a flexible mind-set when it comes to technology is essential.
Skills for Care’s Digital working, learning and information sharing workforce development strategy sums it up well: “Digital working, learning and information sharing are increasingly a day-to-day part of the lives of the workforce providing care and support, and of people with care and support needs.”
For those who are already established in the sector, this will mean adapting to new ways of working while on the job – and there are many fantastic campaigns in place to help them to do this, including the Royal College of Nursing’s Every nurse an e-nurse initiative, which rightly points out that the effective use of information and digital technologies is a key enabler in delivering health and social care now and in the future.
But how do we best prepare new professionals and aspiring care workers for a career that is now necessarily, and unavoidably, digital?
This is the question that we have to ask ourselves as a college of further and higher education. It is up to us to equip the future workforce with the skills, knowledge and abilities that they need to thrive in a digital economy, just as we always have for their more traditional workplaces and processes.
Addressing key priorities for the Fife workforce
Throughout caring professions, there may be specialist technological proficiencies required, however there are also core digital skills that are essential to all modern care job roles and workplaces.
So, what are core digital skills? Skills for Care note that “core digital skills are the skills and knowledge needed to undertake everyday digital activities relevant to your job role. This can include finding and managing digital information, sharing personal data digitally, using digital technology and making use of e-learning.”
The key priorities for the Fife workforce as put forward by NHS Fife centre around building and providing “services that are innovative and utilise new technology”.
An exciting and cutting-edge example of this is the various digital healthcare innovations that are becoming more and more available to professionals in order to streamline systems and make their working lives better. These include self-monitoring, remote assessment of needs, telecare, robotic procedures, care at home, digital patient records, and online consultations.
The emergence of this type of technology emphasises the need for a flexible workforce that can work independently and across all care areas.
To provide this, it is important to take into account the need to replace the current aging workforce by attracting more young people into the care workforce and, especially, the NHS.
Developing the future workforce
Fife College is dedicated to ensuring that those entering caring professions possess all of the skills they need to succeed.
In order to do this, we make sure that all of our courses across Childcare, Health, Social and Community Care, and Social Sciences deliver on the following key principles:
- Including blended learning/ICT/Digital skills within all of our courses
- Delivering courses at all levels that allow our students to move flexibly between areas of care
- Participating in the FUTUREquipped project, which aims to build cross-sectoral understanding of digital innovation in care/housing and ICT
- Continuing to develop innovative partnerships with organisations such as the NHS through our School of Health, Science and Technology and similar sector-leading initiatives
By working in close partnership with the NHS, as well as other leading organisations across public, private, and third sectors, we are able to keep abreast of the gaps and deficiencies of the current and projected workforces. This knowledge can then be fed into more defined courses, allowing our students’ learning to focus on technologies and skills that employers need most now and in the future.
This collaborative relationship with employers also means that we can tailor courses and training to better meet the digital needs of the existing care workforce. In turn, this will allow us to play our part in improving the digital and technology skills of the future workforce from both sides.