Apprenticeships – myths, challenges and succession planning


06 / 04 / 2011

The organisation

Bradford District Care Trust (BDCT) currently employs over 3000 staff working with mental health and learning disability service users across Bradford, Airedale and Craven. Community, inpatient and day services are delivered for service users across all age ranges, and the trust works with learning disability service users from the point at which they leave the school system.

What we did and why

In 2009, the Department of Health made £25 million available to create 5,000 new NHS apprenticeships by March 2010. NHS Yorkshire and the Humber were tasked with delivering 800+ apprenticeships and each trust within the region was expected to contribute to this target.

Apprenticeships were not a totally new concept for BDCT as apprenticeship frameworks had been used on a small scale since 2005. However, under this scheme, new staff had not been recruited directly into apprenticeship posts and the frameworks were instead used for existing staff.

Changing the perception of apprenticeships within the organisation was a key first step. Educating individuals and managers about apprenticeships and challenging the misconception that apprenticeships are only suitable for young people was a key focus of the vocational team. BDCT also developed a cost-benefit analysis model to identify organisational benefits and coupled this with proactive publicity and work with managers at an operational level to identify opportunities that were suitable for an apprenticeship.

A key element underpinning the success of the whole strategy was to secure senior level support from the executive team to ensure business and service priorities were addressed.

How we did it

Conversations with managers emphasising the benefits of apprenticeships resulted in a number of opportunities being created from existing vacancies. As a result, apprenticeships are currently offered across BDCT in health and social care, mechanical engineering, business administration, IT services, management, and customer service. The National Apprenticeship Service and NHS Jobs were used in tandem to advertise the vacancies.  

The trust worked closely with local education providers to commission appropriate and tailored education and training programmes. Linking with local providers was felt to be the right approach as this tracks back intro the local community and fosters a sense of community engagement.Two separate learning and development routes were developed by the vocational services team for apprentices, one college-based and one work-based.

In addition, mentor training was also provided for staff who were supporting apprentices within the workplace. A significant amount of effort was put into the training of mentors who served as a support for both apprentices service managers.

Results and next steps

BDCT has been employing apprentices since 2005 and, as of March 2011, 61 apprentices were employed across BDCT - the following benefits have resulted from the use of these programmes:

  • Proven to be an innovative way of recruiting new staff
  • Improved new starter retention rates
  • Improved standards of literacy and numeracy across the trust
  • Increased the skills and qualifications of existing staff (where previously development opportunities may have been less clear)
  • Realised cost benefits to the organisation through the utilisation of available funding schemes
  • Provided managers with flexibility around recruitment
  • Improved the level and quality of mentoring within the organisation
  • Improved the diversity of staff within the trust by encouraging non-traditional applicants into the organisation.

Benefits apprenticeships give to the community include:

  • Developing the skills of local people and involving them in the delivery of local services with the potential to unlock new talent
  • Employment opportunities with guaranteed training which contributes to the wider public health and wellbeing agenda
  • Opportunities to train or retrain and gain excellent employability skills, which improve employment prospects either within the trust or with other organisations.

Tips for other trusts

  • Develop strong relationships with your communications and finance teams
  • Publicise apprenticeships and their benefits within your organisation
  • Invest in the training of mentors
  • Use the scheme for both new employees and existing staff
  • Develop strong partnerships with education providers.

Contact details

Please contact Rosie Hawley, Vocational Services Manager, Bradford District Care Trust at  

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