Demand for health and care apprenticeships is set to soar, yet providers seem unprepared to grasp these business opportunities, says Sally Garbett

The 2013 Cavendish Review identified significant weaknesses in induction training for 1.3 million healthcare workers delivering the bulk of hands-on care. This led to the introduction of the Care Certificate, which now forms a crucial first stage of the trailblazer health apprenticeships.

Demand for these apprenticeships is set to increase significantly, given that 23 per cent of all new jobs (that’s almost 320,000) are expected to be in health or adult care by 2022 – according to the City and Guilds Great Expectations report. But are providers ready to meet this demand?

The new health standards have been available for implementation since February 2017 and although the funding allocations to colleges and providers were lower than expected, money started thumping into levy accounts in May. So why are several of the colleges I have spoken with lately not going to be ready to deliver these health apprenticeships until September?

We need providers who can deliver what we need in the way we need it

Is it possible that problems in provider understanding might be delaying implementation of these standards?

The health apprenticeship standards are central to the new Health Education England career pathway from health care assistant to registered nurse (see the HEE report ‘Raising the bar: Shape of Caring’) and will include new nursing associate and registered nurse apprenticeships by September 2017.

The healthcare apprenticeships at levels two, three and five are part of this career pathway and the future healthcare workforce depends in part on their availability.

The apprenticeship must be delivered in the way we need, not the way the college or provider prefers. This requires a partnership with us, with the employer delivering some of the teaching and assessment and being paid for that as a subcontractor.

But provider understanding is patchy: in recent weeks in my work across England I have spoken with a provider who told me that the level three senior healthcare support worker apprenticeship took 15 months – but the standard suggests 18 to 24. I met with a college that suggested part-time apprenticeships were not allowed; another who insisted the employer could not choose the qualification they wanted in the level two healthcare support worker standard, which they can, as none is specified. One provider made no mention of the Care Certificate, a key component of the health apprenticeships.

As the vocational programmes manager for St Christopher’s Hospice, a levy-paying employer-provider, apprenticeship delivery partnerships are of paramount importance.

The primary function of St Christopher’s Hospice is of course to provide skilled, compassionate end-of-life care but we, like many other hospices, also deliver education and as charitable organisations we have a heightened responsibility to use our levy wisely. To do so, we need providers that are able to work with us.

We need providers who can deliver what we need in the way we need it. We need providers who are flexible and able to work with us to develop meaningful delivery models that include off and near-the-job learning.

We need quality approaches that cover the entire apprenticeship standard, not just the qualification within it, so that those who achieve the apprenticeship can carry out the job role it was developed to support.

St Christopher’s has an established relationship with our local college; we co-deliver apprenticeships. Our clinical staff are dual professionals – healthcare professionals with teaching and assessment qualifications, so there is no problem with due diligence or contractual arrangements.

The partnership is not without challenge but we work together to resolve problems. If our college can do this, so can many more.

Let’s start a dialogue to open channels of communication and work better together. Our future nursing workforce may depend on it.

Sally welcomes your comments and can be reached here.


Sally Garbett is vocational programmes manager at St Christopher’s Hospice