A partnership of education and training organisations is launching an ambitious new skills-boosting project to provide valuable support for the local health and social care sector.

Strategic Development Fund cash has been secured to set up the Government-backed scheme across the Marches region.

The joint bid was led by Telford College, and also includes Shrewsbury Colleges Group, Herefordshire, Ludlow and North Shropshire College, and SBC Training.

The work done by NHS and social care staff in the fight against Covid-19 has earned great praise – but also put services under tremendous strain.

The partners say they are committed to working together to ease the burden by launching a series of initiatives over the course of the next 18 months which are designed to help recruit and retain staff.

Victoria Rankin, executive lead for people at Shropshire Telford & Wrekin ICS, said: “Everyone knows that the NHS is under significant pressure right now – we believe that this partnership project could make a real difference at a time when it is most needed.

“We want to be ambitious and use this pilot to test out the new ways of working and take the opportunity to invest in enhanced training which is designed to support NHS teams who are under considerable strain.

“We want to take advantage of technology-led learning, including virtual and augmented reality, fast-track more staff into the sector, and upskill others.”

The project will include a range of training programmes from entry level all the way up to degree-level, beginning with basic knowledge and skills for everyday situations, and covering areas such as digital literacy, safety and environmental regulations, good practice, infection prevention and control, and safeguarding issues.

The initiatives will be using cutting-edge technology to help train local people – while at the same time helping to raise awareness of the wide range of career possibilities currently available in the health and social care sector.

It is hoped that the programme will also help existing health and social care professionals to diversify, or build on their existing skills.

The Government says the aim of the pilots is to ‘begin building the local collaborations that will create a stronger and more efficient overall delivery infrastructure and support a more co-ordinated offer across the local area’.