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What Greater Cambridge Partnership’s Apprenticeship Service means to our hospitals

Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus has a long-standing commitment to the development of our staff, enabling where possible access to NVQs in areas such as healthcare, administration, pathology and estates, writes Vanessa Anderson, apprenticeship programme manager at CUH.

Cambridge University Hospitals nurses (13832470)
Cambridge University Hospitals nurses (13832470)

We recognise the importance of a well-trained, professional, engaged workforce – many of whom we train via apprenticeships. So we are excited by the launch of the Greater Cambridge Apprenticeship Service a couple of weeks ago as it will turbo-charge our existing programme.

Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) is one of the largest and best known trusts in the country. As the local hospital for our community we deliver care through Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie hospitals.

We are a leading national centre for specialist treatment, a government-designated comprehensive biomedical research centre, one of only six academic health science centres in the UK and a university teaching hospital with a worldwide reputation.

Our emphasis on apprenticeships increased after April 2017, when the government introduced the national apprenticeship levy. This means that all employers with a payroll value of more than £3 million each year are required to contribute 0.5% of their total pay bill directly to the HMRC. Businesses which don’t train apprentices still have to pay the levy, so the incentive is there.

Through the levy, the government finally abandoned the voluntary approach to training, by making the employer both purchaser and direct funder of workforce skills. Once the levy has been paid employers such as CUH access funding for apprenticeships through an online account.

We currently have 180 apprentices in a range of roles in the areas of administration and clerical, pathology, estates and science. There are also clinical pathway routes, for example, operating department practitioners, and in February 2018, we launched a new Nursing Apprenticeship Pathway. In doing so, CUH became one of the first to adopt a new four-year apprenticeship scheme meaning students can ‘earn while they learn’, ahead of their continued employment as a registered nurse.

The CUH Nursing Apprenticeship Pathway demonstrates, at scale, the organisation’s commitment to its staff and developing a sustainable workforce. This apprenticeship enables CUH to provide career development and create a pipeline of registered nurses. The model makes the most of the apprenticeship levy and builds close partnerships with educational institutions. This model will help to retain a culture of development at CUH whilst creating a cadre of CUH registered nurses loyal to the trust.

So apprenticeships are a key element to our education and professional development strategy. But there are other reasons besides the levy why we increasingly invest in apprenticeships. According to the government, nearly every employer that takes on an apprentice (97%) reports benefits to their business*.

Organisations that take on apprentices can become more competitive and more productive, they plug their skills gaps more cost-effectively, and staff retention increases because employees have greater loyalty and motivation.

The new Greater Cambridge Apprenticeship Service presents the trust with a significant opportunity to improve employee training and development opportunities, and to attract and retain our workforce better. It will also provide routes to professional registration that will contribute to a longer-term, sustainable workforce.

There is one other benefit of apprenticeships that CUH is already committed to promoting - social mobility. This is a stated policy objective of the government and is about creating a stronger, fairer society in which people from all backgrounds can realise their potential.

Employers and apprentice candidates can visit www.gcapps.co.uk for more information.

The view from a nursing apprentice

Ninette Quinton is an HCSW-nursing apprentice due to complete her nursing degree apprenticeship in six months’ time.

“When I was at school, I wanted to do medicine at university, but if I’m honest I lost my motivation so decided to take a year out. I took a job as a healthcare support worker (HCSW) at the CUH while I decided what I wanted to do, and ended up finding my calling! I discovered I loved nursing.

“So I enrolled on the Nursing Apprenticeship Pathway which means I spend half my week as an HCSW responsible for basic care needs like observations and helping patients. The rest of the time I’m a student nurse working with a mentor to help with drug rounds, care plans and going on placements.

“I’ve had some great experiences, from going into the Plastic Unit as well as my ‘home’, J2 major trauma ward, where I’ve learnt so much from so many people. Trying to balance being an HCSW, a student nurse and my studies on the university’s BSc nursing degree programme isn’t easy, but I’m doing it. I’ve learnt a lot about myself – I never expected to be able to organise all the jobs in my head as it can feel like there are a million things to do, but I’ve impressed myself by taking responsibility.

“I love what I’m doing now and in the long term I want to work up the bands to become a specialist nurse and be the best I can.”

The senior nursing team

“The nursing apprenticeship is a brilliant initiative that we are proud to support. Not only does it provide 'earn as you learn’ development opportunities, it enables individuals to work alongside our dedicated CUH team to deliver outstanding care” - Lorraine Szeremeta, chief nurse, CUH.

“This has enabled one of my long-standing, experienced healthcare support workers (HCSWs) to access a route into nursing that they would probably not have been able to pursue previously, due to financial reasons. To be paid and work part-time as a HCSW whilst training has given them the opportunity to further their career. Undertaking their student placement on the ward has enabled them to gain valuable experience in a safe, secure and familiar environment with the support of their work colleagues/team members” - senior sister, CUH

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New apprenticeship scheme from Greater Cambridge Partnership will plug skills gap in the region

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