Skills for Care

What we can learn from Norway’s approach to recruiting men in social care

13 Sep 2023

5 min read

Jon Kerr

  • Culture and diversity
  • Recruitment

Our Head of Workforce Capacity Jon Kerr visited the Menn I Helse (Men in Health) project in Norway. He reflects on some of the key learnings from the trip.

The Menn I Helse project has been running in Norway since 2011, with programmes running in a large number of Norwegian municipalities. The project has contributed to a significant shift in the numbers of men moving into social care careers.

Skills for Care launched a key project in 2023 called New Demographics into Care, which is looking at getting more men and young people into adult social care jobs. The visit was set up in order to learn from the good practice in Norway and to identify if there was any learning that could be transferred to activities in England. Skills for Care had been in contact with the project for some time and had been sharing ideas, but there’s no substitute to seeing the project in person.


About the Menn I Helse programme

The Menn I Helse programme is an interesting one. It’s supported via the Norwegian social security system and enables men who need additional support to enter the labour market to be supported into social care roles.

The programme runs for two and half years and comprises of three stages:

  • a three-month work trial
  • one year in college
  • around one year work placement.

It was interesting to note that the three-month work trial is the point at which most dropouts occur.

There was a wide variety of ages across the men participating, but most were aged over 25. Many had previously worked in other industries, such as the oil industry or in trades such as building or carpentry.


My visit to the Menn I Helse programme

I visited the Stavanger Municipality, and was kindly hosted by Vidar Kringlemoen, the National Coordinator and Kjersti Hoddevik, the Regional Coordinator. They put together a busy programme where I was able to see the various stages of the project and speak to all the key people involved. This included a college visit, a promotional event, an employer visit and a meeting with the project founder.


College visit

I spent a great morning at the college that delivers the educational programme for the project in Stavanger. This included speaking to the tutor that delivers the college course and discussing the various elements of the taught programme. Following on from this I had the fantastic opportunity to speak to several of the men who were on the programme. The two key things that struck me about this visit were firstly, the importance of the pastoral/wrap-around support that was given by the college tutor and the project coordinators to support the participants to remain engaged with the project, particularly where they had personal issues that made this difficult. Secondly, I was struck by the levels of pride and camaraderie that the men who had been selected for the programme had. It was clear that for many men it was viewed as an opportunity to make a significant positive change to their lives.


Promotional Event

We visited an event that was being held at a care home that had attracted press interest, including local television cameras. The event took the form of a race around the care home by residents, many of whom were in fancy dress, some of whom had decorated their walking aids and wheelchairs. It was a wonderful event that finished with live music and food. It provided a good example of how Menn I Helse has deliberately sought out opportunities to promote the brand wherever they could. At least 20 men involved in the programme had made the journey to get involved in the promotion.


Employer visit

On the second day of the visit I went to visit a large residential setting, who engaged with Menn I Helse. I was able to speak to the managers for the provider as well as men involved in the programme. The key message from the provider was that it was a positive experience for them to be involved in. At the end of the programme they were in a position to permanently take on men who’d taken part.


Meeting with the project founder

Frode RØnsberg, was the founder of Menn I Helse in the Trondheim region of Norway. Frode provided an invaluable overview of how the project came about and what the challenges and successes were along the way.


Key learnings about recruiting men in care

I took away a lot from my insights into the programme, and how these could be adapted into similar initiatives in the UK.

  1. Co-ordinator function is key – All areas have a co-ordinator. This has been challenging at points during the project due to short-term funding arrangements and vacancies. It was felt that this role is absolutely critical to the success of the programme.
  1. Funding – It was clear that the levels of funding available for the programme have enabled it to have been as successful as it has been.
  1. Support from the system – Similarly, the way in which the Norwegian social security system supported men to engage with this programme was massively beneficial.
  1. Varied approaches – one size doesn’t fit all. It’s important to able to adapt the approach to enable it to work best in the area in which you’re working. For example, very rural areas of Norway.
  1. Start in one area and then add on – Success takes time. Don’t rush it until the project is ready to expand.
  1. Education – The quality of the college tutors was important. Providing engaging learning about the sector.
  1. Quality of materials – The project places a lot of emphasis on quality promotional materials. This made a real difference in terms of the effectiveness of their campaigns.
  1. Messaging – Getting the messaging right was vital in order to speak to men and attract people who may otherwise not have thought about careers in care. This is key in overcoming stereotypes and social preconceptions about what it is to work in care.
  1. Pastoral support – The men on the programme often have other issues going on in their lives, and the pastoral support to enable them to remain on the programme is crucial.
  1. Team accountability – The role that the men had in terms of supporting each other on the programme was evident. Regular physical meet-ups and developing a sense of team and common purpose enabled that support and peer mentoring.


Find out more about recruitment including recruiting men into social care with our #RecruitRight spotlight.

Why we need to encourage more men to work in social care

Why we need to recruit a new demographic into a career in care