The NHS recently celebrated its 70th anniversary. The celebrations reminded us all of how many lives the NHS touches. And it’s no exaggeration to say that throughout most of the NHS’s existence, apprentices have made a huge contribution to its success.
Apprenticeships provide a route into lots of fantastic industries. And for the NHS, apprenticeships play a key role in making sure we have the skilled people we need. Apprenticeships give opportunities to people of all ages and backgrounds to get a rewarding career.
The inspirational nursing workforce is a major part of the NHS. We want nursing to be a career open to everyone, and to make sure there are enough staff to maintain high-quality care in the face of growing patient demand.
But it’s not just about recruiting into nursing: we know that to make sure the NHS has a workforce fit for the future, we need to look at retention, development, and returning to practice.
“We’ve made developing new, high-quality apprenticeships in nursing a priority”
We’ve been making big changes to the way apprenticeships work in this country, improving their quality so that they give people and employers the skills to thrive. And to make sure that nursing is a career with clear progression, we’ve made developing new, high-quality apprenticeships in nursing a priority.
The new apprenticeships offer alternative routes into nursing, where you can earn while you learn. They give people of all ages and from all walks of life, including those already in the NHS who might not be able to study full-time, the chance to learn on the job.
We approved the nursing associate apprenticeship, designed to help bridge the skills gap between healthcare assistants and registered nurses. It allows people to come into the NHS at entry level and go on to become nurses. It’s been a real success, with 5,000 apprentices planned to start in 2018, and a further 7,500 starting in 2019.
In May last year, we also approved the nurse degree apprenticeship. The first nurse degree apprentices started in September 2017, and there have been 260 so far. These numbers are expected to rise as more NHS trusts see their benefits and build apprenticeships into their workforce planning.
And for nurses who want to develop their skills even further, we have created the advanced clinical practitioner apprenticeship – so the career ladder continues.
Why is this important? Because you can now start off, at entry level in the NHS, knowing that there is a complete pathway for you to continue as an apprentice and reach advanced clinical practice in nursing.
It means the doors are open to people of all backgrounds to enter a nursing career, and to gain the skills they need to reach their full potential.
“An apprenticeship can change your life and working with an apprentice can change your team and the services provided”
Across the country, opening up different apprenticeship routes is having a clear impact. Numbers of nurse apprenticeships are increasing, and that’s partly down to the drive of NHS trusts. Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust has employed over 400 new apprentices this year and Ipswich Hospital has employed over 100.
Just last month, 20 nurse degree apprentices started their training programme at Leeds. Lancashire Teaching Hospital aims to develop and retain local talent for the long-term, recruiting local candidates via an apprenticeship and offering them the opportunity to continue their learning at university.
But what do apprentices themselves think about this? We are hearing positive feedback from Health Education England. Nurse apprentices they have spoken to are delighted they can join the workforce without having to go to university and taking out a student loan.
An apprenticeship can change your life, and working with an apprentice can change your team and the services provided across the NHS. We want to see more and more people becoming nurse apprentices and joining one of the biggest and best employers in the world: our world-class NHS.
This is a brilliant opportunity for people to join the NHS. To find out more, please visit https://www.stepintothenhs.nhs.uk/apprenticeships
Anne Milton is minister of state for skills and apprenticeships; Steve Barclay is minister of state, Department of Health and Social Care