East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has been shortlisted at this year’s HSJ Awards in the Workforce category for its apprenticeship scheme in biomedical science. We spoke to Patricia Dawes, Learning and Development Manager at the Trust to find out more about the apprenticeship scheme.
Why was there a need for the apprenticeship scheme in the Trust?
We’ve been running apprenticeship schemes for the last five to six years, and our initiative was to broaden this and explore other apprenticeships we could offer. This linked in with the national initiative: Modernising Scientific Careers. Employing apprentices, allowed us to provide support for the senior scientists enabling them to deal with the more complex and specialist work within the laboratories, while providing a good training experience for these young people within a working laboratory environment. As a large employer covering a wide geographical area, we are in the position to create and support work opportunities for young people to develop good work experience and improve their skills within the workplace.
Who are the apprenticeships aimed at?
We would offer an apprenticeship to anybody usually recruited through one of our local colleges, who advertise our scheme via the National Apprenticeship scheme. The apprenticeships are offered from age 16 upwards. On completion of their apprenticeship, the apprentices receive a level 3 qualification.
How has the apprenticeship programme benefited the Trust?
One of our strategic objectives was to improve the age profile in the Trust. In 2011-13 16% of our recruits were between the ages of 18-24; with the apprenticeship programme it has increased to 24% in 2012-13. We have made our service delivery more efficient by increasing numbers of staff, this has meant improved turn-around times without compromising service or the quality of care to patients. We are more effective by allowing qualified scientists to focus on complex patients and diagnosis. We have achieved this at no extra cost to the organisation.
As a Trust we’re increasing the competency of our workforce, so if the apprentices choose to progress their career and go on to work in science within the NHS, it means that they will be highly skilled as they already have two year’s work experience in the Trust.
What are the benefits for the apprentices?
For some it is a route into the NHS, and we believe we’re one of the first in the region, and perhaps the NHS, to introduce a specific biomedical science apprenticeship.
We worked with the college who developed the programme for us, and the apprentices spend time at the college doing the taught element of the course, and also gaining their technical skills certificate. At the end of the two years they will have a recognised qualification at level 3, which is the equivalent of A Levels plus they’re gaining two year’s work experience. They can then go on to work in the NHS, either at our Trust or any other NHS hospital. The apprenticeship also gives them an opportunity to progress their learning pathway and enter university to train as a Biomedical scientist if this is their plan.
Do you have any plans to develop the apprenticeship scheme?
Yes, we’re hoping that when this group of 10 have completed their apprenticeship we will be able to continue. Alongside this initiative we are also exploring other apprenticeship opportunities, for example we have expanded our business admin apprenticeships to include Medical Secretaries, and are now looking at Healthcare Workers and Cardiographers.
Why did you decide to enter the Workforce category?
We thought we had something a bit unique and were really excited to be able to enter the awards. The programme allowed us to respond to a national driver from the government to get young people into work. We understand the importance of developing the future workforce, and by promoting the career opportunities in the NHS means we will have a sustainable workforce for the future. Working in science is a really exciting field open to young people across the country. Raising the profile of this type of career will highlight the opportunities available.
Congratulations on being shortlisted and good luck at the Awards Ceremony