15th March 2017 Written by Sally Garbett. Vocational Programmes Manager at St Christopher’s Hospice

Image: Sally Garbett.Following the survey results published last week on the Apprenticeship Levy, Sally Garbett, Vocational Programmes Manager at St Christopher’s Hospice and joint lead of the National Hospice Education Collaborative (NHEC) approached us to provide a response. Read on for Sally’s guest blog...

I have been involved in Apprenticeships and vocational education since 1990 and have worked through various reforms to these programmes over the years. Apprenticeships are an increasingly important part of workforce development for St Christopher’s Hospice’s Health Care staff which includes vocational qualifications in end of life care, dementia and medication administration. We also run Summer Schools for 16 to 19 year olds interested in careers in care and the Care Certificate which we have certificated through City & Guilds.

I am an active member of the healthcare support worker, senior healthcare support worker, assistant practitioner and Nursing Associate Trailblazer groups facilitated by Skills for Health. The Skills for Health website and resources are really helpful so naturally I was interested in the results of the Skills for Health Apprenticeship Survey which came out last week.

Apprenticeships are a component of Health Education England’s Shape of Caring* reforms for the health care and nurse workforce. These reforms provide a vocational career pathway from Health Care Assistant to Registered Nurse and mean that for the first time we can soon offer those who want to enter a career in care the opportunity to progress from Level 2 Health Care Assistant to Registered Nurse via an employed route, combining paid work with study; no debt and flexible time scales.

The Apprenticeship reforms have brought employer friendly changes to the funding and increased flexibility in the eligibility for those who are eligible for Apprenticeships. Below I highlight these changes and how they may address some of the employer concerns highlighted in the Skills for Health survey.

Survey finding: 80.8% of respondents have experienced some form of barrier when taking on an apprentice including difficulty in finding suitable candidates and lack of time or funding to develop apprentices

From April 2017 there is increased flexibility for those who can be funded for Apprenticeships. The Apprenticeship does not have to be a new job or vacancy; it can be new learning for an existing member of staff even when they are already qualified to the same or a higher level; for example a promotion or change of career direction within the employing organisation.

Another change is part time Apprenticeships. Existing or new staff who work fewer than 30 hours a week will be eligible for Apprenticeships from April 2017. The Apprenticeship for part time staff must be extended pro rata so the same amount of learning and development is provided as would be for full time Apprentices. Those with a Degree or higher qualifications in a different subject to the Apprenticeship are also eligible for funding. These developments are new from April 2017 and long overdue.

The above combined with the fact the funding for those aged 19 plus will not reduce by 50% for those over the age of 23 means that existing part time staff, returners to work and even graduates who need to avoid the costs of study can all undertake Apprenticeships.

I suspect many Levy paying employers will focus first on upskilling their current workforce via Apprenticeships rather than the creation of new Apprenticeship vacancies. This may help address the challenge of “finding the right candidate” expressed by respondents to the survey and facilitate promotion from within organisations. Levy paying employers will need to maximise the use of their Levy by looking first at the current workforce, although I am hopeful we will see more vacancies advertised as Apprenticeships with the associated study and qualifications.

It is a requirement that the Apprentice receives 20% learning “off the job” and the employer can (and should in many cases) request that the Apprenticeship is delivered over its’ longest permitted timeframe; both of these should help address the survey concerns about lack of time to develop the Apprentice. When advising fellow hospices on Apprenticeships I am often told the provider has suggested the shortest Apprenticeship duration of 12 months without discussion when 18 or 24 months may be permissible. As an employer we should ask for the time frame that best suits our Apprentices needs and our businesses. The Apprenticeship duration should be based on need not provider preference.

Survey finding: 44.8% thought that the levy would have an impact on their business. 36.78% thought this impact would be positive to very positive. 27.1% thought this impact would be negative to very negative. 31% were not aware of the levy and 55% not sure if it will have an impact.

Only 2% of employers will pay the Apprenticeship Levy leaving the majority of employers required to pay 10% of the Apprenticeship costs with the Skills Funding Agency funding 90%. There is the opportunity for employers to work in partnership with their provider, delivering aspects of the learning and assessment that they are best placed to provide as long as the employer’s staff have the right teaching or assessment qualifications and occupational experience. The employer can be paid by the provider as a subcontractor providing the employer meets required quality assurance and other requirements**. This may result in more meaningful partnerships between employers and their providers as they work collaboratively to deliver the best outcome for the Apprentice, each playing to their respective strengths.

Survey finding: 74.5% thought it likely to very likely that they would recommend an apprenticeship to someone they know

This is good news! Many hospices are considering offering qualifications and progression via Apprenticeships for staff in non-clinical roles like H.R, Accountancy, Management, Marketing and Retail as well as developing the clinical and health care staff. The opportunities and benefits of the Apprenticeship reforms mean we can embed them in workforce development strategies for those we employ. In 2016 St Christopher’s Hospice established a National Hospice Education Collaborative (NHEC) with the initial focus on supporting hospices in navigating the potentially complex Apprenticeship and Levy landscape. To find out more about St Christopher’s Education and the National Hospice Education Collaborative, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

*HEEs response to The Shape of Caring, May 2016

** Skills Funding Agency: Apprenticeship funding in England from May 2017

Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog author and do not represent those of Skills for Health.