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Nurse apprenticeships: why they’re a great way to start your nursing career

Minister and former nurse Anne Milton urges would-be nurses to consider apprenticeships

Minister and former nurse Anne Milton urges would-be nurses to consider apprenticeships


Apprenticeships offer the chance to gain a national qualification while earning a salary.
Picture: Tim George

I will never forget the feeling of excitement and nerves as I arrived at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London for my first day as a nurse apprentice. It was 19 August 1974.

I hadn’t always known what I wanted to do, but nursing turned out to be a fantastic career choice for me: it gave me the chance to earn while I learned, and move my life to London, which was an exciting prospect for an 18 year old.

Of course, learning is an important aspect of any apprenticeship and one of my proudest moments was when I realised my medical knowledge was as strong as that of the junior doctors I was working with. That showed the learning power of an apprenticeship.

So much enthusiasm out there

As minister for apprenticeships and skills, it never ceases to amaze me just how much energy and enthusiasm there is out there for apprenticeships – from employers and providers, but more importantly from the apprentices themselves. One of the things I often hear from them is how they wish they had started their apprenticeship sooner.

‘The NHS also offers a complete apprentice pathway from entry level to postgraduate advanced clinical practice in nursing’

Things have moved on since I was an apprentice. Apprenticeships are now much improved. They are longer, higher quality, and there is more off-the-job training and proper assessment at the end.

We've worked in partnership with the NHS to develop the new nursing apprenticeships to make sure the health service can continue to get the skilled workforce it needs.

There are so many benefits to starting an apprenticeship in the healthcare industry – from gaining a nationally recognised qualification to building up a professional network and earning a salary at the same time. The NHS also offers a complete apprentice pathway from entry level to postgraduate advanced clinical practice in nursing.


Apprentices and employers share a keenness for the model, claims Anne Milton.
Picture: iStock

Long-term funding

Two years ago, we introduced the apprenticeship levy to create long-term sustainable funding for apprenticeships and to give employers like the NHS more control to provide their staff with a range of training opportunities. By 2019-20, the funding available for investment in apprenticeships in England will have risen to more than £2.5 billion, double that spent in 2010-11 in cash terms.

We understand employers want and need flexibility. In April this year we introduced the option for levy-paying employers to transfer up to 25% of their levy funds to other employers. We are also working closely with employers to make sure they know how to use their funds, and this includes the NHS.

We are continuing to work closely with employers and Health Education England to make sure the NHS is fully supported to recruit apprentices, both in nursing and a range of other occupations.

Widening access to healthcare careers

We are making good progress, but there is more to do. When employers and providers work together they can make sure people from all backgrounds are able to access high quality healthcare apprenticeships.

All too often, university is the default choice for people interested in a career in the health sector. My apprenticeship helped transform my life and opened up doors that would eventually lead to a life in politics. I am proud to now be the minister for apprenticeships and skills – and I would encourage anyone who is thinking about a career in the NHS or nursing to consider the apprenticeship route.

Click here for more information and guidance about nursing apprenticeships – or read about other great examples of NHS apprenticeships.


Anne Milton is minister for apprenticeships and skills,  Department for Education, England

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