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Fostering Diversity and Inclusion: The Transformative Impact of Higher and Degree Apprenticeships in the Health Service


In recent years, higher and degree apprenticeships have emerged as powerful tools in addressing both skills challenges and diversity gaps within the healthcare sector. This transformative approach to education not only equips individuals with essential skills but also fosters inclusivity, creating a workforce that mirrors the diverse communities it serves. A shining example of this success is found at London South Bank University (LSBU), where 82% of nursing apprentices are female, and 65% come from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. This accomplishment underscores the positive impact of apprenticeships in reshaping the healthcare landscape.

Addressing the Skills Gap:

The healthcare sector has long grappled with a shortage of skilled professionals, a challenge exacerbated by an aging workforce and growing demands for healthcare services. Higher and degree apprenticeships have emerged as a strategic response to this issue, providing a pathway for individuals to acquire specialised skills while gaining practical experience in a real-world setting. These apprenticeships offer a unique blend of academic learning and hands-on training, ensuring that apprentices are not only well-versed in theoretical knowledge but also possess the practical skills necessary to excel in their roles.

Diversity and Inclusion in Action:

One of the most remarkable aspects of higher and degree apprenticeships in the health service is their ability to break down barriers and promote diversity. At LSBU, the nursing apprenticeship programmes serve as a beacon of success in this regard. The fact that 82% of nursing apprentices are female and 65% hail from BAME backgrounds reflects a commitment to inclusivity and an intentional effort to create a workforce that mirrors the diverse patient population.

The significance of this diversity extends beyond mere numbers; it contributes to a more culturally competent healthcare workforce. Patients from various backgrounds often feel more comfortable and understood when their healthcare providers share similar cultural or demographic attributes. This improved connection between healthcare professionals and patients can lead to better health outcomes and a more positive overall healthcare experience.

Empowering Underrepresented Groups:

Higher and degree apprenticeships play a crucial role in breaking down socioeconomic barriers that may have historically limited certain groups’ access to education and career opportunities. By providing an alternative route to obtaining a degree and professional qualifications, apprenticeships empower individuals who may not have pursued a traditional academic path. This is particularly impactful for women and individuals from BAME backgrounds who have historically been underrepresented in certain professions.

At LSBU, the success of the nursing apprenticeship programmes in attracting and retaining individuals from diverse backgrounds serves as a model for other institutions and organisations looking to address workforce imbalances. The emphasis on outreach, mentorship, and support mechanisms within apprenticeship programmes helps create an environment where individuals from all walks of life can thrive.

Contributing to the NHS Workforce Long Term Plan:

The NHS Workforce Long Term Plan outlines ambitious goals for ensuring the healthcare system has the right staff, with the right skills, in the right place. Higher and degree apprenticeships align seamlessly with these objectives by providing a flexible and practical approach to developing a skilled and diverse healthcare workforce.

Apprenticeships contribute to the realisation of the Workforce Long Term Plan by:

  1. Building Capacity: Apprenticeships provide a scalable and efficient means of building a larger and more diverse healthcare workforce, addressing the capacity challenges outlined in the Long Term Plan.
  2. Promoting Retention: Apprenticeships often result in a more engaged and loyal workforce. As individuals undergo training while working, they are more likely to remain in their roles, contributing to the stability and continuity of healthcare services.
  3. Diversifying the Workforce: The success of apprenticeship programmes, such as the one at LSBU, in attracting individuals from diverse backgrounds directly supports the NHS’s commitment to promoting equality and diversity within its workforce.
  4. Addressing Local Needs: Apprenticeships are adaptable to local healthcare needs, ensuring that the workforce is aligned with the specific requirements of different regions and communities.


Higher and degree apprenticeships are proving to be a catalyst for positive change in the health service, addressing both skills shortages and diversity gaps. The success of the nursing apprenticeship programmes at LSBU, with its high percentage of female apprentices and those from BAME backgrounds, demonstrates the potential of apprenticeships to transform the healthcare workforce. By fostering inclusivity and providing alternative pathways to education and professional development, apprenticeships contribute not only to individual success but also to the overall health and resilience of our communities.

As the healthcare sector continues to evolve, the adoption of apprenticeship models can serve as a powerful tool for building a workforce that is not only skilled but also reflective of the rich tapestry of our society. In doing so, apprenticeships play a pivotal role in supporting the NHS in achieving its ambitious Workforce Long Term Plan and ensuring a sustainable and inclusive future for healthcare in the United Kingdom.

By Sammy Shummo – LSBU Group Director of Apprenticeships

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