New Health and Social Care Academy offers new opportunities

New Health and Social Care Academy offers new opportunities

Thanks to the Foundation of Light's partnership with Helen McArdle and the McArdle family, a brand-new Health and Social Care Academy has opened at the Beacon of Light.

The partnership aims to attract more young people into the industry, giving hundreds of learners the opportunity to gain new skills and qualifications through the Academy at a time when the social care industry is facing a critical shortage in staff.

Recent reports have highlighted the impacts of severe staffing shortages across the sector with 165,000 vacancies nationwide in 2022 and a 10.7 percent vacancy rate. The North East has a current vacancy rate of 8.9 percent, an increase in 2.7 percent from 2021.

The Helen McArdle Health and Social Care Academy aims to tackle the staff shortage in the region by helping young people develop the skills and knowledge needed to work in the care and education sector, supporting them to gain practical skills in preparation for employment or progression into further education and training.

The Academy will deliver nationally recognised qualifications, including BTEC Award in Introductory Health and Social Care Level 1 and BTEC Support Teaching and Learning in Schools Level 2 as well as improving the numeracy and literacy skills and hands-on work experience of hundreds of young people over the next three years.

Learners will also gain real life work experience through placements with industry partners, the Foundation’s disability sport, family learning and over-55’s tackling loneliness sessions.

One learner who has already benefitted from this programme is Ashton Colby Dockerty from Sunderland. Aged 19, he enrolled in the programme in early 2022 to provide better support for his mum who he currently provides full-time care for.

Ashton said “I joined the Helen McArdle Health and Social Care Academy to learn more about how I can help my mum and give her the best possible care at home. The course has made a big impact on my life. Before I started, I couldn’t leave the house because I was so anxious.

“For the first few weeks, I didn’t really speak to anyone but I kept going as I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. The Foundation staff were amazing and I’m really glad I joined the course.”

As a result, Ashton has gone on to enrol in our Level 2 teaching and learning qualification with the Academy with the aim of becoming a teaching assistant and to support young carers in similar situations to himself.

The Foundation of Light's partnership with Helen McArdle and the McArdle family, is part of a £500,000 donation to Sunderland AFC’s official charity, to support programmes that will create life opportunities for thousands of young people across region. The Beacon’s Street Level has also been re-named the ‘Helen McArdle Youth Zone’.

Best known for her work in the care industry having founded Helen McArdle Care in the 1980s and later Kids 1st Nurseries, Helen has dedicated her time to creating a lasting legacy in the region, giving generous donations to worthy causes across the North East.

Commenting on the opening, entrepreneur and philanthropist Helen McArdle CBE said “I am really pleased to officially open the Health and Social Care Academy at the Beacon of Light and create a space for young people to grow their skills and provide a pathway into the health and social care industry at such a critical time.

“Like many industries, health and social care is facing a skills shortage but through the work of the Foundation of Light and the other organisations we support, I hope that we are creating a lasting legacy to support the industry and provide quality care to thousands across the region.”

Sir Bob Murray CBE, chairman of the Foundation of Light said “We are delighted to open the Helen McArdle Health and Social Care Academy at the Beacon of Light. Helen McArdle and the McArdle family are fantastic partners, and we are hugely grateful for their support. Working together to provide skills training as well as facilitating young people with the opportunity to reach their potential, we are set to improve the lives of thousands and close the employment gap for some of the most disadvantaged in our community.

“Over the last 20 years, we have supported over half a million people to live happier and healthier lives and our key focus has been to support young people to make the right choices. Our partnership with Helen and her family will help us continue that mission over the next three years.”