Apprenticeships in the NHS are helping to shape teams and lives

John Rogers

17 / 3 / 2016 9am

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, John Rogers, chief executive of Skills for Health looks at how apprenticeships have developed over recent years.

Apprentices make a significant contribution to our health and care support workforce within both clinical and non-clinical roles. Through our subsidiary, the National Skills Academy for Health, we work with employers to actively promote excellence, improvement and high quality training for apprentices to support career development.

Industry endorsements speak for themselves. In fact the success of apprenticeships has the led the government to commit to increase the number of apprenticeship starts to three million during this parliament.

Thanks to these schemes, people have the opportunity to meld their experiences with invaluable on-the-job training, including those who have not started out in ‘traditional’ routes of education.

It’s a programme which is delivering valuable staff for the NHS with more than 12,500 apprenticeships completed in the health sector between 1 July 2014 and 30 June 2015.

Norman Lamb MP spoke this week about the importance of apprenticeships on a visit to West Heath Medical Centre in Birmingham. He said: “Apprenticeships are an excellent way of creating a highly skilled and highly motivated workforce for our NHS. The demand for healthcare is rising inexorably as a result of a growing and an ageing population.

“More people are living with long-term conditions than ever before, while the cost of advances in medical treatment places further strain on the system. We need to ensure that our NHS workforce has the skilled professionals it needs,” he added.

One man who is a perfect advertisement for apprenticeships is James Lowell. When James finished school at 16, he had just three GCSEs, but a porter job at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital in London showed him surprise opportunities.

He discovered assistant pathologists were needed to help doctors and learned on the job through an apprenticeship scheme. After two years of paid training, he gained a diploma as a qualified anatomical pathology technologist.

Moving up the ranks and then studying for a master’s degree in business administration, James is now a general manager at the hospital across several departments.

James said: “One of my strengths now as a senior manager in the NHS is I can interact with anyone at any level of the organisation in a way where I have a deep understanding of what those people actually do.

“I can appreciate more the workings of the organisation, the consequences of managerial decisions and how that actually affects the patients who are at the heart of everything we do.”

Shannon Clancy has taken a similar route into her dream career.
The 20-year-old joined an eight-week pre-employment programme through the job centre last October studying Health and Social Care and on placement within the Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust.

Afterwards, Shannon interviewed for a year-long apprenticeship as a trainee nursing assistant, working towards an NVQ in healthcare at the Manchester Royal Infirmary. A month in, and she says she couldn’t have imagined the doors that would open to her.

“The Acute Medical Unit (AMU) where I’m is based accepts patients from A & E and referrals from GPs so I get to see a lot of different people and conditions. The hope is that by the end of my NVQ I will have developed a greater understanding of what it's like to work in the healthcare system.”

The chief executive of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Robert Calderwood, joined the NHS in 1971 on what was then a ‘school leaver training scheme’. He says apprentices should be in no doubt their role – no matter how small at the start – is a “very fulfilling and rewarding career in the context of the opportunities you get to make an impact on people’s lives”.

With more than 70 different apprenticeships appropriate to the health sector we encourage every health employer to look seriously at and engage with apprenticeships as a key means of securing and developing the NHS workforce of the future. There is no doubt that the NHS is thriving thanks to the apprentices that have been taken on, and we at Skills for Health remain committed to ensuring there will be many more opportunities to come for people to make their mark in delivering high quality care.

Find out more about Skills for Health and National Skills Academy for Health.

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