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09 Dec 2021

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Valuing skills, or not

By Caring Times editor GEOFF HODGSON

Perhaps the government believes that care work has become so glamorous as a consequence of the pandemic that care providers will have no further difficulty in recruiting home-grown labour.

I’m sure we all have our own thoughts about that but it’s interesting that the sector’s battle flag has the words “highly skilled” embroidered in big letters onto the rippling silk. Embroidery is a skill but I think its few remaining adherents would say it is one which is undervalued, and that is the point that is being either overlooked or ignored in the discussion about whether or not, as a society, we value care workers.

Of course care workers are highly skilled; here are just a few elements of the skill-set – observational, interpersonal, motivational, manual handling, nutrition and hydration awareness and of course infection control. Aside from skills there are attributes or qualities such as compassion, understanding and emotional resilience.

Most of us will have heard the story of the little Dutch boy in Haarlem who put his finger in the dyke to stop the leak getting worse until the Dutch engineers could come and fix it. Now the little boy wasn’t very skilled but, as we all know, Dutch engineers are the very embodiment of skilliness. But who are the heroes in that story? Not the highly skilled Dutch engineers, there’s only one and it’s the little boy; he was on the spot, he saw what needed to be done and, with admirable presence of mind but very little skill, did it.

So being highly skilled has little to do with how society values the contribution we make to it; it’s more about the kinds of skills and the abundance or scarcity thereof. Learn to read a radar screen, master the jargon of radio communication and get your head around CAA flight procedures and you can be a fairly high-earning air traffic controller. Be compassionate, observant and a dab-hand at manual handling and you can earn a pittance as a care worker, but only if you already live here.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

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