The I Care… Ambassador programme is a national initiative that aims to inspire and motivate people to consider working in health and care. Ambassadors are volunteers from a range of roles and employers in the health and care sector, who attend local events to talk honestly and enthusiastically about their job and career journey. I Care… Ambassador programmes are run independently by each city; and Leeds City Council originally embedded the initiative in Leeds, building a strong foundation for the project. In 2020, the Leeds Health and Care Academy took on the responsibility of recruiting I Care… Ambassadors and developing the programme as a whole, to align the Ambassador programme with other city-wide pieces of work that were taking place at the time.
Throughout 2020, the Leeds Health and Care Academy implemented a strategy which aimed to upscale the programme, with a focus on recruiting I Care… Ambassadors from roles where the system is experiencing workforce gaps, as well as from a range of different organisations, in order for Ambassadors to be representative of the entire health and care system in Leeds. By encouraging individuals from recognised priority roles and a breadth of organisations to join the programme, it is helping to fill identified workforce gaps by aiding recruitment into these roles.
Since September 2020 we have grown the city-wide pool of Ambassadors by 90%. We have recruited Ambassadors from 11 different partner organisations, including Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, St Anne’s Community Services, St Gemma’s Hospice, and the Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group. The I Care… Ambassador programme allows us to work together as one Team Leeds, crossing organisational boundaries and helping people make connections across the system. Regular networking events are held for Ambassadors to attend, providing further opportunity to build relationships and share knowledge with others.
The growth of the Ambassador network has been possible through the following strategies:
- Reaching out to partner organisations to share the opportunity among their teams and networks.
- The creation of branded promotional materials to create an identity around the programme, and raise awareness of recruitment.
- Producing case study videos of existing Ambassadors to encourage others to follow in their footsteps.
- A targeted approach of contacting those in organisations or roles which are underrepresented in the programme to ensure that we have a variety of representation across the system.
- Mapping workforce gaps and roles required within the system, and aligning with city-wide pieces of work to aid recruitment to these specific areas.
Over the past year, Leeds I Care… Ambassadors have attended 18 events – due to the pandemic they were a mix of virtual and face-to-face opportunities. Events included a virtual careers panel with Leeds West Academy, speaking to potential future members of the health and care workforce at the Big Leeds Health & Social Care Jobs Fair at Kirkgate Market, and helping out at student open days at Notre Dame College. Ambassadors played a key role in supporting the implementation of the Health T-Level in Leeds, which is a new national qualification that provides a high quality, work-focused alternative to A-levels for young people post-GCSE. Ambassadors attended summer schools and student experience days to support the participating colleges, and to talk to potential T-Level students about their role, career journey, and answer questions about working in Leeds’s health and care sector.
The new I Care… Ambassador page on the Leeds Health and Care Academy website helped to improve visibility of the I Care… Ambassador initiative in Leeds, as well as making information about the programme accessible to the whole sector. A new sign-up process for potential Ambassadors was developed, moving from a paper-based form, to a digitally submitted form accessed via the webpage, which has created an easier pathway for those who want to get involved.
Our website also hosts both written and video case studies from some of the existing Ambassadors, enabling them to share their unique stories and encourage others to follow in their footsteps – whether that is in relation to their career, or motivating others to join the I Care… Ambassador initiative. Creating engaging, person-centred case study content has allowed us to reach a wider group of people, and demonstrate the accessibility of a career in health and care through accounts of people that already work in the sector.
What does 2022 hold for the Leeds I Care… Ambassador programme?
We will continue to grow our diverse community of experienced volunteers and work to engage in tighter collaboration with key strategies across the city. Supporting attraction and retention into priority roles will remain our focus, recruiting Ambassadors from across the Leeds health and care system to help reduce workforce gaps. We are also planning to showcase the fantastic work of more of the Ambassadors via case study activity. Our evaluation process will be developed further to aid us in ensuring we continue to make a meaningful impact and, like many others, we are looking forward to attending more in-person events where possible.
We have many more exciting events coming up that I Care… Ambassadors are helping to support, and we are currently recruiting for new Ambassadors to join the programme. Anybody working in the Leeds health and social care sector can be an I Care… Ambassador – no matter your role or level of experience. To find out more information, or if you or anyone you know would be interested in applying to become an Ambassador, visit the I Care… Ambassador page on our website for further details, or to fill out an expression of interest form.