A new world of apprenticeships


Despite the many changes, and some reservations about apprenticeships, the NHS is stepping up to the challenge and getting involved in developing new standards. Candace Miller, Executive Director for Learning Services and Consultancy at Skills for Health, tells us why she is impressed.

Over the past two years, the relatively steady state of apprenticeships in the NHS has changed dramatically. The introduction of apprenticeship standards to replace frameworks, the 2015 comprehensive spending review, the change to the bursary system and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy will all lead to big changes in the way apprenticeships are used in the NHS.

Skills for Health has a long history of working with employers in the health sector to develop apprenticeships that traditionally focussed on the Band 1 – 4 workforce. We are now seeing a huge shift in the roles that apprenticeships will be used for, including nurses, paramedics, healthcare scientists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, along with the traditional support worker roles. Trusts have also been actively involved in developing new apprenticeship standards for wider healthcare roles such as business administrator.

Skills for Health, working with Health Education England (HEE), are supporting employers to develop the apprenticeship standards for a number of occupations in the health sector. Information on the range of new standards that could be used by employers in the NHS is now available. This information along with a number of new resources and tools will be available on a new website from April 2017 providing employers with a ‘one stop shop’ for all information related to the new standards.

The National Skills Academy for Health and HEE are also producing a new guide on high quality principles for apprenticeships, which looks at the factors and issues employers need to consider to ensure apprenticeship training for their staff is the best it can be.   

What has been impressive is the way that employers and other stakeholders in the NHS have responded to the challenges and are keen to take forward new apprenticeship standards. The time needed to be part of an apprenticeship trailblazer shouldn’t be underestimated, as a standard will take around 12 months to complete, but there is no shortage of employers prepared to make that commitment.

However, there is no denying that some of the proposed apprenticeship standards have attracted some negative press, especially for some of the healthcare professions where there has been a perception that the new apprenticeship will somehow ‘dumb down’ the profession. This couldn’t be further from the truth. For example apprentices for nursing or allied health professions, will be undertaking programmes that meet exactly the same professional regulatory standards for registration and education, as defined by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, or Health & Care Professions Council, as those using the traditional higher education route.

The next three years will see the introduction of a large number of new health apprenticeship standards and training as an apprentice will become commonplace. For Skills for Health and the National Skills Academy for Health, it is a privilege to work with so many people committed to making apprenticeships in the NHS a success.

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