If you're young and out of work, you can get a job looking after the elderly

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The Independent Online

It's a far cry from the catwalk to the care home but David Taylor, 23, says it's a step he'll never regret. Taylor works as a care assistant in Mansfield having left his blossoming fashion career six months before he was due to graduate as a designer.

"I was working in a residential home to earn some extra money for my degree," says Taylor, "and started taking a really keen interest in dementia clients. I gradually realised that no other job would give me so much satisfaction."

Taylor has just completed his NVQ level 3 in health and social care (the nationally recognised on-the-job qualification from City and Guilds) and is hoping to do his Registered Manager's Award (RMA), with a view to more advanced social worker training. He's not alone. A new TV advertising campaign kicked off last week, aiming to show how rewarding a career in social care can be and targeting young people and career-changers. At the moment more than 1.5 million people are employed across the adult social care sector in England but as many as 200,000 jobs in the sector are expected to be available in the coming year. The Department of Health campaign, which runs until 20 March, focuses on the difference a career in social care can make through the voices of those who work in the sector.

This drive comes hot on the heels of a new survey from the Department of Health which suggests that more than a third of people would consider switching into a career in social care, especially in younger age groups. "Working in social care has been portrayed as just about cleaning up after the elderly but it's not like that at all, says Taylor. "Each day I go to work, there's a certain little old lady who jumps up and shouts my name. Things like that make you forget your own problems."

Social care attracts career-changers and it's not hard to see why.

"If you get an unqualified job, your place of work will usually put you through your NVQ, so you're earning money while you're doing your qualifications and you don't have to take time off or save up to go to college," says Taylor.

According to Ian Anderson, who transferred from an unfulfilling career in banking after doing a degree in social science, it's easy to break into social care. Now director of adult social services for Lincolnshire, having worked his way up from an unqualified social worker, Anderson says: "There are plenty of opportunities to secure a whole range of training from NVQs up to professional social work training."

The support individual councils give to social work training does vary, but many councils offer support and there are definite skills shortages in areas of children and families as well as mental health, he says.

The real challenge facing the industry is the UK's demographic change. "In many areas there is a 4 per cent increase of old people each year," he says. Anderson thinks that the profession needs to grow by one-half over the next 10 years. According to research, in the next 20 years the number of people aged over 65 in England will increase by just under a half and those over 85 will double. To encourage social care employers to recruit young people, the Department of Health and Department for Work and Pensions has also launched the Care First Careers scheme, which will offer 50,000 jobs in social care for young people aged 18 to 24 who have been unemployed for six months or more. Employers are offered a recruitment subsidy of £1,000 plus free pre-employment training for every young person they recruit through the scheme.

Despite having worked his way to the top, Anderson says he still gets the same level of satisfaction as he did when he started out. "I paraphrase the oft-used expression about the cleaner at Nasa being part of putting a man on the moon. I am still part of ensuring someone, somewhere gets a good night's sleep..."

• To find out more about the social care recruitment campaign, including the full list of events across the country visit: www.socialcarecareers.co.uk

• Starting out in social care can be poorly paid but with the chance of on-the-job training. If you're unqualified and with no experience, try getting work as a home care assistant or in a residential care home.

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