NHS apprenticeships: offering the right support to make them work

Carol Forde-Johnston

15 / 3 / 2016 8.30am

In this blog Carol Forde-Johnston, nurse education lead at Oxford University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) outlines some of the successes and challenges of leading new apprenticeships within the Neurosciences, Orthopaedics, Trauma and Specialist Surgery (NOTSS) division.

There are currently six apprentices in the division, undertaking a one year apprenticeship which they are due to complete in September 2016.

Where it began

Although OUH has created a range of apprenticeships, this was the first time our division had taken on any apprentices. To ensure we offered the right level of support, we sought advice from our clinical and non-clinical practice educators, who offer support and guidance on apprenticeships across the trust. The information we received was very helpful, such as the need for up to date DBS disclosure checks for all our managers. I also attended a managers teaching session and was able to ask detailed questions about the apprenticeships and what extra workload this would mean for the staff supporting them.

Having agreed to take six apprentices within NOTTS, many of whom had just left school, I was asked to provide a divisional support role to help embed them into their working environments, and ensure they had a point of contact outside their work areas to guide them through their apprenticeship year. A key part of this support included an induction programme that covered; an orientation to our division, care and compassion, customer care training, E-learning for statutory and mandatory training and information governance.

Managers gave an outline of the clinical pathways and opportunities within their areas and apprentices were offered the opportunity to work across, and gain an overview in each service area. These rotations have allowed the apprentices to view potential jobs they can apply for on completion of their apprenticeship.

Supporting our apprentices

Apprentices meet with their training provider supervisor every few weeks to review their work and progress. Their line managers meet with the training provider and write an overview of their progress which is kept brief so as not to be too time-consuming or onerous.

As well as one-to-one support, the NOTSS apprentices access a monthly peer group meeting. This discussion group works really well and all have commented on how they use the group as a source of support, as well as discussing the course requirements and to bounce ideas off each other. Their line managers and I meet with the group over lunchtime to catch up with them informally and try to resolve any of their issues.

As a direct result of a particular group discussion, we held a parents evening and talked to the apprentices and their parents about the potential job opportunities which the trust is aiming to offer at the end of the apprenticeships.

Advice to other trusts

While supporting the apprentices as part of my divisional lecturer practitioner role, I have been extremely impressed by what these young adults have brought to our specialist services and how well the team have embraced the initiative.

At this point we are now eight months into our first apprenticeships and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with each apprentice, seeing them grow in confidence and competence from the school leaver I first met last September. I know they, and I, feel a massive sense of achievement on how far they have come.

I have seen them in practice, competently managing reception areas on busy clinic days, and developing a new Twitter recruitment account to market job opportunities. The apprentices have all developed key skills that we can utilise and all six have said they want a permanent post within our trust.

I would say to any NHS providers looking to offer apprenticeships to start small, think about the support you need to offer, identify the right person to offer it, and offer it regularly throughout their time with you. You will then get the best out of those young adults who can be a real asset to NHS areas of work.

If you would like to know more about the experience within our division, please get in touch via Carol.Forde-Johnston@ouh.nhs.uk.  


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