Getting the most from apprenticeships

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Employer-led apprenticeship reforms are aimed at improving the quality of apprenticeships and providing the technical skills that employers need.  

As a wider range of apprenticeships are rolled out, including higher and degree apprenticeships, they are becoming an excellent means of recruiting, developing and retaining staff. 

Apprenticeships can help to widen access to employment and represent an alternative to full-time university study. For example, a degree-level nursing apprenticeship standard has been approved which employers can offer to new or existing staff from September 2017. Apprenticeships can help to diversify your workforce by being more inclusive of disabled people and those with learning difficulties or disabilities. Inclusive recruitment can lead to better retention rates, more innovative teams, and improved workforce supply.

On this page you will find some top tips on how to use apprenticeships to help address skills shortages and develop your talent pipeline.

1. Use apprenticeships to employ more young people

Apprenticeships are open to people of all ages, but if you are looking to recruit more young people into your organisation, be mindful of the extra support that apprentices may require. A line manager at Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust advises: "Don't underestimate the scale of the mind-shift that is required to take an apprentice from school to work. Create a cohort of apprentices if you can, who travel through the programme and grow together and learn what it means to be an employee rather than a student."

For employers who are linking with their local schools and colleges to encourage young people to do an apprenticeship, consider how you're going to get the positive message out about the range apprenticeships in healthcare. 

A further £1000 is available to employers when working with an apprentice who is 16-18 years old in recognition of the extra costs associated with supporting young people. Our ThinkFuture web pages have a range resources, including three digital toolkits, to help you engage with 16-24 year olds.

For disabled apprentices or those with learning difficulties or disabilities who may struggle to achieve a level 2 in English and maths, the entry requirement can be flexed to Entry Level 3.

2. Use apprenticeships as an opportunity to develop an ageing workforce

Organisations are acutely aware that employing and retaining the skills and experience of older workers is needed in order to avoid future skills shortages. As part of their strategy, many employers are now recruiting apprentices who are in a range of age groups. 

In 2014/15, over 55,700 of those starting an apprenticeship were aged 45 to 59. A further 3,400 were aged over 60. For more details visit Age Action Alliance

The Working Longer Group has produced a number of tools and resources to assist NHS organisations prepare for and support an ageing workforce.

3. Use social media to recruit apprentices

Social media can be an effective way of reaching potential applicants, particularly if you wish to attract young people who use these platforms to share and source information. 

Our Recruiting through social media case study outlines how Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has used LinkedIn and social media to successfully recruit to key roles.

Our ThinkFuture web pages have a range resources, including a digital communications toolkit, to help you engage with 16-24 year olds.

4. Use apprenticeships to develop your existing workforce

Degree apprenticeships

The development of degree apprenticeships has seen a focus on involving employers, universities and relevant professional bodies in co-designing apprenticeships to meet occupational competences. There are a range of degree apprenticeships currently available for the health sector with more on the way.  To find out more about the apprenticeship standards currently ready for delivery visit the Skills for Health Healthcare Apprenticeships website.

Degree apprenticeships: what employers need to know. The second in our range of guides for employers focuses on degree apprenticeships. It looks at how they can be used to develop alternative career pathways into the NHS and help employees to gain a degree without following the traditional university route.

5. Think about how apprenticeships can help you to reshape your workforce

With the recent policy changes surrounding apprenticeships many employers are ensuring that they form a key part of their workforce supply strategies. There are a range of ideas about how the non-medical workforce can be developed outlined in a new report from The Nuffield Trust, commissioned by NHS Employers. Download the report from The Nuffield Trust website.

Further information

Further information about apprenticeships is available at NHS Apprenticeships and on the GOV.UK website.  The Skills for Health Healthcare Apprenticeship website also has information on the standards available in health, and a range of tools and resources to support you with implement apprenticeships in your organisation.

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