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Care and health career academy toolkit

This toolkit provides guidance for those who want to establish their own career academy. It was commissioned by the North West Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (NWADASS) and the Local Government Association (LGA).


Career academies are partnerships between health and care organisations in a particular area. They offer job advice, career guidance and development, apprenticeships, and opportunities to gain management, specialist and leadership training to those interested in pursuing health and social care careers. 

The health and social care sector faces numerous challenges, and workforce retention and recruitment is often considered one of the most significant. However, we can pool our assets, expertise, and creativity by partnering with colleges, universities, user-led organisations, providers, citizens, and people who use services. We can also encourage individuals to consider social care for their future career options. This way, we can address the workforce and skills issues differently and put social care at the forefront of people's career choices.

How to use this toolkit

This toolkit is structured in several parts. The first sections explore what a care and health academy is and why you need to consider establishing one. The other sections look at the issues surrounding the 'set up' of a care and health academy. 

When using this toolkit, you are invited to dip in and out of the sections related to the vision and work required in your locality. For some, this will mean focusing primarily on the first sections to understand the academy’s scope and what it will ultimately do.

However, we recommend that, at some point, you consider the areas identified in setting up an academy, as these will help with establishing strong foundations from which the academy can grow and become sustainable.

This executive summary is based on a full version of the toolkit, which is available to view on the North West Association of Directors of Adult Social Services website under Workforce.

View the full toolkit.


The demand for long-term care is rising, and as life expectancy increases, the adult social care sector is facing significant challenges. To deliver high-quality services, the workforce must increase by 36 per cent, adding around 580,000 jobs. However, providers are experiencing obstacles that hinder them from recruiting and retaining the right talent. These challenges include limited public awareness and understanding of social care, diverse work settings and roles, and the absence of a clear national entry point into the sector.

Care and health career academies have been established to address these challenges. These academies aim to cultivate highly skilled and dedicated staff who can provide personalised support to those in need. By doing so, they hope to overcome the obstacles faced by the social care sector, making it easier for those who aspire to work in care to find fulfilling employment opportunities. These academies are thoughtfully designed to align with industrial needs, leverage best practices, and ensure learners remain engaged and motivated throughout their journey. 

The North West Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (NWADASS) and the Local Government Association (LGA) have jointly developed comprehensive resources to assist councils in developing their care and health career academies. Among these resources is this toolkit which offers valuable guidance for establishing career academies and a maturity matrix to assist councils in assessing progress and planning the development of academies.

What is a care and health career academy?

Care and health career academies aim to cultivate skilled and good-quality staff who can provide effective support to those in need on a personal level. This is achieved by emphasising the importance of placing the individual at the forefront, building positive relationships, and creating a safe environment. Academies are designed to meet industrial needs, build on best practices and support the learner to remain engaged. 

Most academies are based on effective partnerships with organisations with a key stake in the outcomes, for example, health and social care, universities, local colleges/training providers and employers.

Included within our toolkit are case studies on the Fylde Coast Health and Social Care Career Academy, Borders Technology and Enhanced Care Hub, (Scotland) and We Care Academy, Leeds. We look at why they were set up, partnership models, programmes on offer, target groups and what has made the academies successful.

Why you may need to set up an academy?

The demand for long-term care is rising, and life expectancy and years of ill health are increasing too. To meet this growing need, the adult social care workforce needs to increase by 36 per cent (580,000 jobs). However, the adult social care sector faces challenges that hinder providers from recruiting and retaining skilled staff and delivering high-quality services. 

These challenges include limited public knowledge and understanding of social care, the wide range of work settings and roles, and the absence of a national gateway into the sector. Recruitment processes can also be cumbersome, with the need for time and resources for Disclosure and Barring Service checks.

An academy can support social care employers to overcome the sector’s challenges and help those who want to work in care find appropriate and satisfying employment. Co-production workshops identified six main areas of activity for an academy.

Designing a career academy

Academies are designed based on a model that envisions the necessary activity and relationships for successful delivery.

Each organisation concentrates on the relevant part or parts of the model that fitted their local context. For instance, the focus could be on increasing the number of individuals entering the social care and health job market, ensuring that they are adequately qualified and skilled, or recruiting individuals who possess the appropriate values for the sector, matching them with suitable roles and organisations, providing them with information on career advancement, and opportunities for upskilling.

Setting up an effective academy will be dependent on having valuable intelligence. This will include labour market intelligence, information about policy and strategic plans, planned innovations and developments, and national and local workforce data and challenges.

Academies can either be virtual or physical entities or a combination of both. Each presents opportunities and challenges to consider, such as flexibility and the ability to deliver practice/work-related elements.

Setting up an academy

Keeping an academy going

Case studies

Maturity Matrix appendix

Our maturity matrix was developed alongside this toolkit to assist councils in their efforts to establish career academies. While this toolkit aims to guide councils in setting up academies, the matrix aims to help them measure their progress on this journey and assess where they are in terms of readiness.

View the maturity matrix