Using apprenticeships to build digital and analytical skills

Ruth Sykes

The Leeds Health and Care Academy drives transformative, system-based learning for the Leeds Health and Care Sector. In this blog, Ruth Sykes, a project officer at the Academy, shares with us how they have worked collaboratively across the system to build digital and analytical skills. 

Back at the start of 2020, when the year still seemed new and full of possibility, the TOPOL review and Interim NHS People Plan prompted us to spot an area of improvement - make better use of data and digital technology and build our collective capability to apply analyst skills to help the people and patients of Leeds. 

We all know that digital and data skills are critical for modern healthcare, and yet the Interim People Plan highlighted that these are some of the main skills gaps in the NHS. Our solution to begin addressing this was to launch a cross-organisational initiative to upskill our existing employees in data analysis.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 hit us at the first hurdle and operational pressures meant our project was paused until our staff had the capacity to engage with the programme. That time came in June, when we partnered with training provider WhiteHat, to deliver a level 4 data analyst apprenticeship and the academy welcomed its first cohort of apprentices on 29 September 2020.

This innovative, 15-month apprenticeship combines industry-leading technical expertise with values-based leadership development. It incorporates 100 hours of bootcamps and coaching, workshops, online training and two fun ‘hackathons’.  Apprentices will be able to cleanse and manage data, present a range of solutions clearly and convincingly and will gain two qualifications in data analysis: data concepts and tools, awarded by the chartered institute of IT. It also develops critical leadership skills for these individuals and new ways of working back in their host organisations, which centre around the people and patients at the heart of our system.

What makes this programme so special is that it brings together colleagues from our hospitals, community healthcare providers and commissioning groups, along with those from national NHS bodies based in Leeds, to develop knowledge and skills in partnership with each other. As part of the programme, learners will collaboratively solve real life analysis challenges - a unique opportunity that our apprentices are especially keen to seize. 

Cross-organisational partnership working always has it challenges, not least because of the various competing priorities of different organisations, but the continual operational pressures as a result of COVID-19 were also added into the mix. At times, we weren’t sure if we’d be able to secure and start a cohort before the inevitable winter pressures began, but our great relationship with WhiteHat and all the efforts of each organisational lead made it happen.

We know it might have been easier for the organisations to conduct this apprenticeship individually, but easier doesn’t always mean most effective. We understand that sharing knowledge and insight improves health outcomes and this opportunity to build digital and analytical capability does just that. 

For a first if its kind in Leeds, we are extremely proud of co-ordinating this programme and especially during such a challenging year. 

For more information about the work that Leeds Health and Care Academy is doing, please contact LHCA@leeds.gov.uk

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