Opinion: How our apprenticeships are delivering the future NHS and care workforce

9 February 2024
Time to read
5 minute read
Mandi Syrett staff profile photo
Mandi Syrett, Project Manager for the Centre of Excellence for Health Apprenticeships

As National Apprenticeship Week celebrates vocational education across the country, Mandi Syrett explains how the University of Suffolk is part of an innovative partnership that will bolster health careers in East Anglia.

When it comes to apprenticeships, often it isn’t universities people think of turning to first, however,  the University of Suffolk delivers a portfolio of degree-level apprenticeships which is set to get bigger and better thanks to a new partnership.

We are a part of the brand-new East of England Centre of Excellence for Health Apprenticeships (CEHA) – a unique tie-up between higher education, further education and health commissioners in our region that is doing something tangible about the concerning workforce gap in health and social careers we are seeing across England.

The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan published last summer warned of a 260,000-360,000 workforce shortfall in the nation’s health sector by 2036 if action isn’t taken to bolster numbers.

It highlighted apprenticeship routes as one of the key levers which will help tackle the problem.

Health apprenticeships are already among the University’s offering, with standards in Mental Health Nursing, Adult Nursing and Nursing Associates among our portfolio.
By working with NHS and social care employers, as well as the Integrated Care Systems in Norfolk and Waveney and Suffolk and North East Essex and three of the region’s FE providers (the College of West Anglia, East Coast College and Suffolk New College), we’ll be able to expand our provision and develop new apprenticeships in critical areas.

The CEHA partnership was only announced last month, and a formal launch event is currently being planned. But the critical action is already happening as health and education chiefs across the partnership are working to define the gaps in provision locally.

This partnership will have many benefits.

For one, it will provide the clearest progression pathway yet for people setting off on their health and social care careers to understand how they can get to where they are going. Level 1-3 health and social care qualifications at one of the region’s FE providers can lead on to a level 4 or 5 nursing associate programme, before progressing onto level 6 and 7 degree apprenticeships here at the University of Suffolk, for example.

For our Integrated Care Systems, the partnership will provide a one-stop-shop for them to recruit and upskill their workforces, and help create the very posts we are most in need of locally.

Here at the University of Suffolk, our £15million Health and Wellbeing Building provides the very best facilities for learners to use, including a state-of-the-art hospital ward, midwifery unit, community flat, simulation spaces and radiography suite among others. And we already have strong links with health employers in the region who know that University of Suffolk graduates are committed and career ready.

New apprenticeships set to be delivered by CEHA will come on stream in the next 18 months or so, and we’ll be providing updates on the Centre of Excellence through the coming weeks and months on our website and social media channels, so do keep an eye out when we have more details.

We are passionate about making sure we can provide the opportunities learners in our region need, and this partnership will be crucial in delivering on those ambitions to address the NHS and social care workforce gaps.

Mandi Syrett is Project Manager for the East of England Centre of Excellence for Health Apprenticeships.

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