NHS apprenticeships are the perfect way for people young and old to start a career in healthcare. They can help to fill some of the gaps that many practices currently struggle to fill. The growth in NHS apprenticeships is a success story we can all appreciate. If you’ve got an employment gap in your practice, here’s how an apprentice could fill it
The NHS employs around 14,000 apprentices across the UK; these development roles fill essential needs in primary, secondary and community care. The importance of apprenticeships is increasing as the NHS continues to face a recruitment crisis, and the number of vacancies far exceeds the number of skilled professionals available to fill them.
Apprenticeships are available to anyone over the age of 16, and provide a fantastic opportunity for workers to learn the ropes in a new role, whilst still getting paid a regular wage. They’re not just for school leavers; there is a growing number of older people who use apprenticeship schemes to learn new skills and switch careers. In fact, apprenticeships are open to workers of any age.
Apprenticeships are hugely beneficial to primary care, says Laura Roberts, director of skills development and participation, Health Education England (HEE). As practices struggle to cope with increasing demand, and a workforce demographic that’s aging, apprentices can fill skills gaps today and tomorrow. The evidence shows that 83% of apprentices stay with their employer after completing their apprenticeship, Laura says, which demonstrates their commitment to their employer and the value that they add to the organisation.
HEE is excited about the potential for apprenticeships in primary care. Laura describes how HEE have developed regional training hubs focusing on primary care employers with a dedicated apprenticeship work-stream plus regional network meetings to share best practice. HEE recognises the challenges in identifying apprentices, Laura says, and is supporting system level/STP-wide procurements, including primary care, to ensure access to high quality apprenticeship provision.
Spotting the gaps
If you’re considering apprenticeships Health Education England has developed four steps to help plan, recruit and develop apprentices in primary care.
- Step 1: Assess your workforce development need: identify the skills gaps of your workforce and their current qualification level relating to their role. Think about any vacancies that could be considered as a future apprentice role. Estimate how much funding you can spend on an apprenticeship.
- Step 2: Choose apprenticeship training and assessments: find a training provider who will offer the right apprenticeship qualification and assess your apprentice over the duration of their qualification.
- Step 3: Advertise a vacancy: to recruit an apprentice, or identify an existing employee, work with a training provider to help with advertising and shortlisting.
- Step 4: Provide ongoing support for the apprentice: including helping new apprentices to adjust to the workplace, nominating a member of the team to be the apprentices mentor and planning workload to provide the necessary opportunities to complete practical tasks in line with training goals. Also build-in time for the apprentice to receive regular assessment/workplace reviews by the training provider.
Here Health Education England answers some of the key questions practices may have about apprenticeships.
What apprenticeships are on offer?
The roles available that are relevant to primary care include:
- optical assistants
- healthcare assistants
- practice managers
- team leaders
- dispensing assistants
- dental nurses
- dispensing and pharmacist assistants
- pharmacy technicians.
How long do NHS apprenticeships last?
An apprenticeship with the NHS can take anywhere from one-to-four years to complete. The exact length will depend on the role applied for, and at which level the apprenticeship is set.
How much does it cost?
Training apprentices can be cost-effective, leading to lower overall training and recruitment costs. Non-levy paying employers can access 90% of the apprenticeship cost through government funding.
Do I need to employ the apprentice?
While you are not obliged to employ the apprentice at the end of their training period, many organisations do.
Health Education England has produced an information pack on apprenticeships in primary care which can be downloaded here.
The government has produced its own guide on employing apprentices, which you can access here.