Care home general manager Sharon Earnshaw was inspired by her parents to follow a career in caring for others and today she is keen to inspire others in Leeds to do the same.

Sharon has recently become a Leeds Health and Care ambassador and will take her story to schools, communities and jobcentres across the city. Her aim is to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to consider health and care for a career, apprenticeship or volunteering role.

The new Leeds Health and Care Academy, a ground breaking collaboration of Leeds health, care and university partners, is recruiting ambassadors from across the city to help promote the many varied roles in health and care. This is part of its work to attract future workforce, to ensure the city has the highly diverse, skilled workforce it needs to serve the people of Leeds, with a focus on recruiting those in the most disadvantaged communities.

Sharon was keen to become an ambassador to support this work by sharing her experiences and passion for her role. “I have always found care work very rewarding. I have been fortunate to work with some influential people, who have motivated me to develop personally and professionally. We can also learn so much from the people we care for and their friends and families.”

Sharon’s commitment to a career in care is clear – she knew from a young age that she wanted to follow a similar path to her parents, who were both nurses, but sadly at 15 years old she lost her mother to cancer. She did not achieve the grades at school she wanted, but still battled on. “I did stay on in school and got accepted for college, however I became a carer for my grandmother and needed to earn a wage to live and pay bills, so I went on to get my first job as a care assistant. From the day I started employment, I embraced the role and the opportunity to develop myself. Within several months I had been promoted to a senior care assistant, which was one promotion in many.”

Today Sharon is the registered manager at Headingley Hall Care Home, for Westward Care Ltd, and manages 86 staff. Her focus is ensuring that their clients receive the highest standard of care. She continues her professional development and has recently completed the well-led leadership programme.

As an ambassador she is keen to share her story. “I believe that my personal story will help others, to see that there is a career pathway in health and social care – especially those who may feel that they have lost their chance to have a career in the care sector.”

Leeds Health and Care Ambassadors are drawn from organisations across the city including Leeds City Council, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group, primary care, private care homes, Be Caring in Leeds, an employee-owned provider of social care services in the home, and Leeds City College students in health and care.

Their roles are varied and include support and care workers, a manager for mental health day opportunities, social workers, business leads, technical information analyst, IT, occupational therapists, radiographers, medical secretary, professional leads for nursing and allied health professionals, case officer for Skills for Independent Living, (SkILs), a practice manager, senior nurse, lead nurse and ward manager.

They are released from their roles two or three times a year by their employers to carry out their work as ambassadors on behalf of the whole health and care system in Leeds.

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