Apprentices get to “try before they buy” as area grows its own workforce

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A group of young people from Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire are embarking on what is planned to become a new route into a career in health or care.

The new apprenticeship scheme is believed to be unique in England and Wales and starts this month.

Watch Mish, Charlie, Caitlin and Leah talk about the scheme

It has been developed by Together We’re Better (TWB), a partnership of NHS and local government organisations, alongside independent and voluntary sector groups, that is working together to transform local health and care services.

The three year apprenticeships will give the young people insight and experience across a range of areas of the health and care system, rather than specialising in one.

It is hoped this “try before you buy” approach will give them a unique insight into how health and social care work, and will allow them to decide which profession they want to embark upon.

During their apprenticeships they will work in:

  • An acute mental health team
  • GP practice
  • Hospitals
  • Community nursing teams
  • Social work team
  • A care home
  • Domiciliary care.

The apprenticeship scheme has been devised by the STP Workforce Programme in partnership with Newcastle and Stafford Colleges, Staffordshire University, Health Education England and the organisations who are supporting the rotations.

“This is the first group of apprentices on this scheme,  and we hope there will be many more to come,” said Mish Irvine, TWB’s Head of Workforce Programme.

“We’re growing our own workforce for health and social care in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent and we’re really excited.

“Traditionally the NHS hasn’t offered this type of experience to people of this age. We are recruiting apprentices at 17 and developing a step by step career pathway for them right up to becoming a registered professional in nursing, social work or any other route they want to go down. We don’t know of any other apprenticeship that is doing that.”

Recruitment is one of the biggest challenges facing health and social care, with an ageing workforce and not enough young people joining the professions.

The first 14 Health and Social Care Apprentices have all attended Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stafford Colleges.

Mish said: “Nursing is now a degree profession. Deciding on this career at an early age is  a huge commitment, they will have student loans to pay off, and there is always a chance that during the process or early in their careers they will  decide that it is not the career for them.

“Our apprenticeship offers an alternative route. They will earn while they learn, will get experience of a really broad range of jobs in all the different areas of healthcare in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent and will get recognised qualifications. They can then decide where they want to specialise.”

She added: “It will also give these young people a unique perspective on how the NHS and Social Care interact together.”

Charlie Parker, aged 18, said: “When I heard about the apprenticeship I was really impressed that you could try before you buy. My first placement is in social work which is currently what I want to go into, but I want to try different things out and see if that changes.

Caitlin Barber, aged 19, said: “I think apprenticeships are a really good route for students. The placements you will do give you a better idea of what you would like to do in the upcoming years.”

And 17-year-old Leah Brimley added: “I’m really attracted to being able to work in the NHS and learn at the same time.”