The Employers Guide to Taking On a Healthcare Apprentice

The Government recently released details of the apprentice funding levy, yet many healthcare employers still feel confused about the basics of apprenticeships in healthcare. This employers guide answers some of the most common questions relating to apprenticeships in healthcare with tips on the future direction of training and qualifications.

1. Why take on a healthcare apprentice?

Aside from funding, the recruitment pipeline is of of the biggest problems facing the NHS right now. With the EU exit creating uncertainty over the viability of bringing in healthcare staff from abroad, ensuring a flow of new talent into the sector is ever more important.

Apprenticeships are one way to help develop the healthcare workforce, delivering affordable care for patients and employers while providing a pipeline of talent for the future. Today’s healthcare apprentices could be the backbone of the future. Employers engage with apprenticeships for a variety of reasons. In a recent survey, the most popular driver of taking on apprenticeships cited by employers was the ability to maintain or improve future skill levels in the organisation. Candace Miller, head of the National Skills Academy for Health said recently that:

“One of the biggest advantages is that apprenticeships overturn the dilemma of employers wanting people with experience, and young people – or people from another sector – not having that experience to offer”.

Apprenticeships are primarily based around on the job learning, with an element of formal training.

2. What apprenticeships are available in healthcare? (Part 1)

So this where things getting a little complicated.

Generally though, there are different levels of apprenticeship which roughly correspond to traditional qualifications.

Apprenticeship levels:

  • Level 2: Equivalent to GCSE level
  • Level 3: Equivalent to GCE A level
  • Level 4: Equivalent to Higher Education Certificate
  • Level 5: Equivalent to foundation degree
  • Level 6: Equivalent to Degree level
  • Level 7: Equivalent to Masters level

There are two main types of healthcare apprenticeship:

  1. Apprenticeships for healthcare occupations
  2. Apprenticeships that are for occupations employed in the health sector (e.g. engineering, catering, customer service).

Both types of apprenticeship are changing from ‘frameworks’ to ‘standards’ (more on this in the next section). In effect the current healthcare apprenticeships are being phased out, with some no longer available from November 2016 and some ending later.

Existing apprenticeships and deadlines:

Here’s a list of specific healthcare apprenticeships and the last starting date for registration:

November 30th 2016 deadline:

  • L2 & L3 Apprenticeship in Health (Informatics)
  • L3 Apprenticeship in Health (Pathology Support)

March 31st 2017 deadline (TBC):

  • L3 Apprenticeship in Health (Allied Health Profession Support)
  • L5 Apprenticeship in Health (Assistant Practitioner)
  • L2 & L3 Apprenticeship in Health (Clinical Healthcare Support)
  • L3 Apprenticeship in Health (Dental Nursing)
  • L2 Apprenticeship in Health (Emergency Care)
  • L3 Apprenticeship in Health (Maternity and Paediatric Support)
  • L3 Apprenticeship in Health (Perioperative Support)

For a full list of current apprenticeships in the healthcare sector, see the NSA Health website.

So what’s changing?

3. What apprenticeships are available in healthcare? (Part 2)

As part of the governments new Trailblazer program, instead of organisations such as Skills for Health working with employers to develop apprenticeship frameworks, employers are now able to come together to create their own apprenticeship standards. In theory, this employer led approach will be more closely aligned with the needs of the sector. Another main difference with the new standards is that there is now no requirement for a formal qualification as part of the apprenticeship. As long as the individual can pass an end point assessment, the Apprentice will be awarded an Apprenticeship Certificate. Even though there is no requirement for a formal qualification the Apprentice must still have at least 20% protected off the job learning time.

Skills for Health are supporting
development of a number of new healthcare (standards) which will replace some of
the current frameworks

The links below take you to the full healthcare standards for further information.

As well as health specific standards, there are other standards that could be applied to a healthcare setting such as:

Further information can be found on the apprenticeship standards website

If you’re interested in taking on an apprentice, what should you do?

Well if you are interested in an apprenticeship using the current frameworks, you need to get a move on depending on the role. Gradually training and support for the existing frameworks will decrease, as the new standards come to life. Right now, training/ support for the new healthcare apprenticeship standards are in their infancy but they will grow based on demand.

In short, the existing frameworks are still valid routes to employment within your organisation and you can continue to use these provided the apprenticeship starts within the forthcoming deadlines.

4. How do you actually take on an apprentice?

Ok, you’re interested in taking on apprentice? How do you actually do it?

There two main routes to taking on an apprentice:

  1. Do it yourself either with someone you’ve recruited or want to recruit.
  2. Use an Apprenticeship Training Agency to manage everything for you.

Here are further details on each approach:

1) Take on your own apprentice

  • Decide on the type of apprenticeship you’d like e.g. the new healthcare assistant practitioner.
  • Find a training organisation either via the Skills Platform or the Apprenticeship service.
  • Check on funding available (see below on the new apprenticeship levy)
  • If you don’t have a candidate, your training organisations can help you source an apprentice.

2) Use an Apprenticeship Training Agency

An apprenticeship Training Agency can do all the hard work for you from sourcing the apprentice to employing them on your behalf. The NSA Health’s ATA is open to all healthcare employers across the NHS, independent and voluntary sectors. The host employer pays the ATA a fee for the apprentice’s services which includes the apprentice’s wage and the ATA management fee.

If you need further help or guidance, get in touch with the Skills for Health who are specialists in healthcare apprentices who can point you in the right direction.

5. How do you pay for an apprentice?

This is where the fun begins…

Currently there may be grants available to you, but the process will soon be changing with the introduction of the apprenticeship funding levy. This levy is essentially a way of forcing employers to take on more apprenticeships. Money is paid in through the levy, but employers can then claim this back to fund apprenticeships from their digital account. The infographic below provides a top level overview of next steps for employers.

The government recently released provisional guidance on the apprenticeship levy and you can read Skills for Health’s summary of this announcement here.

Apprenticeships can lead to improvements in patient care while lowering recruitment costs, so while the future may be slightly unclear at the moment, don’t let it put you off making that first step.

This post was last modified on 29 March 2021

Nola Garavaglia-McGann

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