Higher apprenticeships in the South West

Skills for Health
Skills for Health
Publication date:
01 July 2015


Skills for Health has published a unique report, “Higher Apprenticeships in the South West”, exploring the contribution the Higher Apprenticeship Framework has had on the development of the “semi-autonomous worker” or Assistant Practitioner (AP) role. The research outlines the positive impact the AP role has had on career opportunities for the healthcare support workforce, as well as strong examples of the role being deployed and its contribution to improving both efficiency and patient care.

The report finds evidence that the Level 4 education route (such as higher apprenticeship frameworks and foundation degrees), combined with classroom training and on-the-job training, is helping to develop the semi-autonomous workforce that employers need. Interestingly,

  • Employers interviewed observed that during the course, candidates were engaging in their work at a higher level. When they had completed courses, they were able to undertake a wider range of tasks with a greater degree of autonomy.
  • Almost all respondents reported feeling significantly challenged in the first year of study. However, after support and perseverance, most felt a step change both in their knowledge and understanding and, most importantly, how they were able to make a greater contribution to their workplaces.
  • For those candidates who undertook the higher apprenticeship after decades in health care assistant (HCA) type roles, being given the opportunity for higher level study was significant, unlocking potential and bolstering hands-on experience with intellectual rigour.
  • Many of the candidates interviewed were more mature and had dependents and financial responsibilities such as rent or a mortgage. So, for these people, the ability to “earn and learn” was a significant factor in being able to undertake the qualification.

Ian Wheeler, Head of Research, LMI and Evaluation at Skills for Health comments, “Staffing is the single largest item on the health sector’s balance sheet and as such, one of the greatest conundrums for this sector is how people can be developed and utilised to help meet the demand to deliver more high quality care for less. A key feature of this debate is how to make better use of the pool of highly motivated and loyal “non-registered” support workers.