Career advice

Healthcare apprenticeships: busting myths and realising benefits

In the first of a two-part series on healthcare apprenticeships, Angelo Varetto looks at what apprenticeships can bring to an NHS team and addresses the controversy surrounding them
Apprenticeships

In the first of a two-part series on healthcare apprenticeships, Angelo Varetto looks at what apprenticeships can bring to an NHS team and addresses the controversy surrounding them

In April, the apprenticeship levy was introduced, meaning all organisations with a pay bill exceeding 3 million must contribute. This legislative overhaul has seen a growing number of apprentices in the NHS in England, where historically the training method has been rarely used.

Hand-in-hand with the new legislation has come the removal of student bursaries. This means the prospect of getting paid a wage while training, and avoiding student debt repayments, has become more appealing to many looking for a career in nursing.

Criticism

Undue criticism has been aimed at apprenticeships in the nursing profession, which

...

In the first of a two-part series on healthcare apprenticeships, Angelo Varetto looks at what apprenticeships can bring to an NHS team and addresses the controversy surrounding them


An apprenticeship can be a great way to give junior staff an opportunity to realise their potential

In April, the apprenticeship levy was introduced, meaning all organisations with a pay bill exceeding £3 million must contribute. This legislative overhaul has seen a growing number of apprentices in the NHS in England, where historically the training method has been rarely used.

Hand-in-hand with the new legislation has come the removal of student bursaries. This means the prospect of getting paid a wage while training, and avoiding student debt repayments, has become more appealing to many looking for a career in nursing.

Criticism

Undue criticism has been aimed at apprenticeships in the nursing profession, which have been branded as a way of ‘doing nursing on the cheap’ or providing an avenue for less capable individuals to join the profession.

But the expense of training an apprentice far outweighs that of taking on a student placement; apprentices are paid a salary by NHS trusts, who also pay their tuition fees, whereas students do not have an employer and will pay tuition fees. In many cases, trusts also provide support throughout the apprenticeship to ensure apprentices excel in their qualification.  

It has also been suggested that taking on apprentices rather than nursing students would have a negative effect on the quality of personnel. But apprentices have to meet the same academic and Nursing and Midwifery Council requirements as students, sitting in the same lectures, taking the same exams and going on placements to ensure the level of training is standardised.

Limited places

While growing in popularity, the number of degree nursing apprenticeships being offered in September 2017 is likely to be limited to between ten and 20 per trust.

Places are likely to be coveted, ensuring they are filled by eager and motivated people who have a distinct passion to pursue a career in nursing. 

If employers see the right talent and skills to become nurses in current staff, such as those working as healthcare assistants, an apprenticeship can be a great way to give them the opportunity to realise their potential.

Employers have the chance to invest in their future workforces by curating a committed team of staff. According to Health Education England, apprentices choose to stay at the trust where they did their training more often than not.

If the same happens with nursing apprentices, it will provide a familiarity with the workplace and nursing team that qualified students entering a new trust may not have. This could result in longer term retention and a consistent and cohesive approach to patient care.

To find out more about healthcare apprenticeships in England visit Healthcare Apprenticeship Standards Online

You can also visit the Skills for Health or National Skills Academy websites.


Angelo Varetto is head of national occupational standards, qualifications and apprenticeships at Skills for Health 

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