Apprenticeships in Sheffield


11 / 09 / 2013

Sheffield Diagnostic Genetics Services (SDGS) is for the first time offering apprenticeships in healthcare science as part of the HCS Apprenticeship Pilot.

About the organisation

SDGS is part of the Sheffield Children’s Foundation Hospital and runs an integrated molecular and cytogenetics laboratory, offering 92 different genetic diagnostic tests within the Yorkshire and Humber region. The laboratory also receives samples from national and international patients and processes 18000 samples each year, with a ten per cent year on year increase over the past five years.

Health Education Yorkshire and the Humber invited NHS trusts, and higher education institutions, to submit a proposal to participate in the Healthcare Science Apprenticeship Pilot back in April 2013. The pilot is aimed at employers wishing to use the apprenticeship route to recruit, train and up-skill healthcare science support staff at career framework levels 2-4.

As a confirmed pilot site within the region, SDGS is in its first year of supporting apprenticeships, having gone out to advert in August with the apprentice starting in October.

Why have you decided to support an apprentice workforce?

The extraction team within genetics is a developing workforce with a relatively high staff turnover, it typically has to recruit every two years to replace staff lost to attrition through promotion both internally and externally. It was decided that an apprenticeship role would provide an excellent opportunity to recruit staff through a structured vocational route, allowing the service to develop its own talent whilst widening access to the genetics career pathway.

Does the trust employ apprentices elsewhere?

The trust has been successfully growing apprenticeships in the following areas since 2009. We have recruited posts at Pharmacy level 2 and 3, Business Admin level 2, and Health and Social Care level 2. The current pilot for health care science apprenticeships will also include hearing services Level 2.

Tell us about your recruitment process

To recruit our medical genetics laboratory assistant apprentice, we advertised via the apprenticeship website and NHS Jobs. Our single post attracted 140 applicants, and we ran an assessment day to determine applicant’s suitability before inviting three people for a formal interview. The assessment day consisted of two teamwork exercises, one based around survival and the other around values expected by a patient and values expected from staff. In addition maths and english assessments took place alongside two hands on practical assessments. Our successful candidate is completely new to the trust and starts with us in October.

The post is partly funded through the trust, supported by an incentive payment from Health Education Yorkshire and the Humber (HEYH), which was agreed for this regional pilot. As we are working with a further education college for the delivery of the apprenticeships, Skills Funding Agency Apprenticeship Funding will be accessed, where applicable, and any employer contributions to the cost of the training met through Support Staff Funding, which the trust accesses from HEYH for support staff learning and development needs.

What would you say are the benefits of going down this route?

We are keen to engage with the Modernising Scientific Careers framework, in enabling a clearly defined progression route, underpinned by training and a clear learning pathway, whilst helping to secure our future workforce supply.

How have you incorporated apprenticeships into your long-term healthcare science workforce planning?

The plan is to access the apprentice framework for the current workforce who wish to progress within the healthcare science service, as well as for future apprentices.

What will happen to apprentices once their training has been completed? How do you plan to integrate them into the workforce?

The apprenticeship is a fixed term post, designed to better equip the apprentice with skills to work within the healthcare science sector in the future.

We aim to have posts available for the apprentice to move into upon completion of the programme, however this is not always possible.

Have you any plans to grow the number of apprentice places?

The pilot is going to be evaluated, and if successful then the plan will be to employ apprentices on an annual basis. 


Darren Grafham
Head of Laboratory Services, Sheffield Diagnostics Genetics Service

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