The conclusion of a three year project, established to identify solutions to the persistent challenges of attracting and retaining high quality staff into public sector services in remote and rural areas, was marked with a conference in Northern Ireland this month.
The conference, held in the rural area of Enniskillen, was the closing event for the European Union’s Northern Periphery Programme (NPP) project, ‘Recruit and Retain’, which was led by NHS Western Isles and funded by the European Regional Development fund.
The main focus of the project has been on healthcare, as this sector is one of the largest public sector employers in smaller towns and rural areas, as well as the wider public service sector.
The conference, held on May 6 and 7, was officially opened by Northern Ireland’s Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Arlene Foster.
The conference was organised by the cross border health partnership, Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT), University of Aberdeen (Highland Scotland) and NHS Western Isles.
Addressing the conference, Arlene Foster, said: “As a public representative for a rural constituency, I recognise the key role that access to good quality infrastructure and services can play in ensuring that highly skilled professionals choose to locate and remain in remote and rural areas.
“That is one of the reasons why my Department has invested and continues to invest in the development of telecommunication networks and extending the quality and reach of broadband services here.”
Highlighting the project’s achievements Project Director, Prof. Andrew Sim from NHS Western Isles said: “This transnational conference for the Recruit and Retain project is the culmination of nearly three years’ work and it is wonderful to have received such positive feedback on the collaborative work undertaken to provide some answers to our shared challenges of recruiting and retaining a high quality professional workforce in remote rural areas.”
The ‘Recruit and Retain’ project conference attracted participants from the eight partner countries, including Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Scotland.
Speakers from across these eight regions outlined the innovative and creative approaches in their areas to securing high quality people to work in the public sector in remote rural areas.
Initiatives have included the development of short films to promote the social and professional aspects of living and working in different remote and rural areas. Additionally, further education courses such as Masters Degree level programmes, skills training for home care personnel in remote areas, and professional exchange programmes have been undertaken.
The project also developed a website www.recruitandretain.eu as well as booklets to provide local information for each area for people who are new to an area or still considering a move.
One of the innovative tools designed through the project, called the ‘Yearly Wheel’, includes planned recruitment activities throughout a 12-month period, and different partners aim to adopt this approach.
Speakers at the conference included Prof. Andrew Sim, ‘Recruit and Retain’ Project Director from NHS Western Isles in Scotland; HSE Manager, Tom Daly who is CAWT’s Director General; Dr Neil Galbraith, Chairman of NHS Western Isles, and other distinguished speakers from across Europe and further afield.
The project is scheduled to complete in June 2014 and the Fermanagh conference focused on sharing the evidence-based solutions developed and bringing the project to a successful conclusion.