I Can

(2021 – ongoing)

Following an initial pilot developed by two members of the Birmingham Anchor Network, this progressive employment intervention has now resulted in over 550 unemployed Birmingham residents receiving job offers to start careers in the NHS.


  • During the pandemic, Birmingham Anchor Network members Pioneer Housing Group identified that vulnerable residents were at risk of redundancy. At the same time Birmingham University Hospital Trust were struggling to recruit to entry level positions.
  • Through their membership of the Network, they were able to develop a pilot scheme – Hospitality to Health.
  • The project has then expanded in scope in November 2021 and renamed as I Can. It is led by the Birmingham & Solihull ICB, and has been designed, managed and delivered by a partnership of Anchor Network stakeholders including University Hospitals Birmingham, The Pioneer Group and Birmingham City Council.

The alchemy of a multi-partner approach to community wealth building 

This multi-partner project is now recruiting unemployed residents from specifically targeted neighbourhoods, through a radically redesigned NHS recruitment pathway that makes it far easier for someone with no previous NHS experience, but the right values and behaviours, access an NHS career.

After two years, over 550 unemployed Birmingham residents have received job offers and a further 242 are either in or awaiting pre-employment training.  67% of these participants have been recruited from BAME communities, 51% aged 30 or younger (11% aged 50 or over) and approximately 10% have a registered disability. I Can has also achieved a 23.3% increase in engagement from wards with the highest levels of disadvantage compared to previous NHS recruitment patterns and a 90% retention rate after 6 months in post (rising to 97% for the period January 2023 to June 2023).

This project uncovered a great deal of learning about how to break down barriers to enable people with the greatest need into NHS careers. For the partners involved in the project and in the wider Network, this not only reinforced the importance of the unique alchemy of the anchor network approach but, more importantly, awakened them to the power that anchor institutions wield as local economic players. Multi-partner projects such as this are the seeds of fundamental change to the way that anchor institutions view their role in creating local economies that serve people, place and planet.