From education to employment

Pioneering apprenticeships partnership launched to boost health and social care careers in East Anglia

An innovative new partnership is being launched by education providers and health boards in East Anglia which will transform apprenticeship provision to boost health and social care careers. 

The Centre of Excellence for Health Apprenticeships (CEHA), announced today, will provide apprenticeship progression routes from levels 2 through to 7 – the equivalent of GCSE levels right through to Master’s degrees in East Anglia, becoming a ‘one-stop-shop’ for learners in the region. 

The ground-breaking partnership will help tackle identified gaps in the health and social care workforce locally, as well as provide clearer progression opportunities for apprentices and make career pathways easier to identify for all. 

The launch of the partnership will feature the University of Suffolk, Suffolk New College, East Coast College and the College of West Anglia as the education providers, working with the Suffolk and North East Essex and Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Systems. 

Existing apprenticeships already provided by the partners include a diverse range of career paths, including in early years, nursing, paramedics, clinical associates, radiography, midwifery and dental technicians among others. 

New apprenticeships are also set to be developed under the plans, due to launch in the next 18 months. 

Mandi Syrett, project manager for CEHA, has more than seven years of experience in health apprenticeships in both clinical and education settings. 

“I am incredibly excited to lead this partnership – I really believe in apprenticeships and how integral they are to helping address our health and social care workforce challenges,”

Mandi said:

“All of the partners have a really strong track record of developing learners to become career-ready in the health sector, and by having both employers and training providers on board with the Centre of Excellence we are putting learners in the best position possible to start and progress in their careers.” 

The Centre of Excellence will play an important role in addressing the workforce challenges in the health and social care sector, with the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan identifying apprenticeships as a key driver in recruiting and retaining staff. Post-pandemic recruitment figures have indicated student enrolments in 2023 were 12 per cent lower than in 2022, according to the Council of Deans Health 2023. 

In addition, the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan has indicated a shortfall of between 260,000 and 360,000 staff nationally by 2036/37 without immediate action. As well as helping to meet the workforce needs, the Centre of Excellence will also offer learners clear progression pathways to careers in the health and social care sector, including opportunities for upskilling and retraining existing workers. 

Jenna Seager from Hadleigh, Suffolk, has just completed a Level 3 Early Years apprenticeship with Suffolk New College, which includes modules in nutrition and first aid training. Jenna, 19, is now working full time at the pre-school in Hadleigh where she trained and is looking to do a Level 4 qualification in the future.

She said:

“I did the course as it was more practical, you work alongside learning and you earn money. “For me, I didn’t want to go to university – I wanted to gain experience and doing the apprenticeship route helped me with that, and I may do a degree in the future. 

“I think the news about this collaborative centre of excellence for apprenticeships is great, The fact that they are all working together will mean there will be more courses on offer for people to benefit from.” 

Simon Richardson is currently on a Level 5 Nursing Associate foundation degree apprenticeship at the University of Suffolk with West Suffolk Hospital his employer. He joined the hospital in 2015 as a nursing assistant, and soon decided he wanted to pursue a career in nursing, beginning on the degree apprenticeship in February 2022. He hopes to progress onto the next apprenticeship at Level 6 to become a registered nurse. 

Simon, 32, said:

“I saw the apprenticeship route come up, I went for it and I am finally on my way to becoming what I wanted to be. Without the apprenticeship there is no way I would have ever got this far. “Once I found it, I knew it was for me. It’s not a job you do purely for financial benefit – you do it because you want to help people. You go from seeing people at their worst when they come in to seeing them leave at their best.” 

David Pomfret, Principal of the Colleges of West Anglia, said:

“The CEHA is an exciting, innovative partnership which will enable the College of West Anglia to further support the regional skills needs of the health and social care sector by expanding the highly regarded School of Nursing Studies, and extending the range of apprenticeships offered in King’s Lynn, to include progression from the Level 5 Trainee Nursing Apprenticeship to a regulated Degree Nursing Apprenticeship and the introduction of dentistry apprenticeships.” Julia Bates, Deputy Principal for Curriculum and Strategic Partnerships at East Coast College, said: “We are excited to be part of this new partnership which offers clearly mapped pathways from levels 2 to 7 in health and social care apprenticeships, helping to address the critical skills shortages in the NHS. “By partnering with other institutions we can play our part in improving recruitment planning, providing valuable opportunities and good jobs for our students and the communities we serve.” 

Sue Abbott, Director of Apprenticeships at Suffolk New College, said:

“We are delighted to be part of this new Centre of Excellence for Health Apprenticeships. Bringing together the expertise of educational experts from across the region together, we are determined to work with industry to create new generations of talent who will gain the skills they need to make a positive impact within the health sector. “We are very excited to work with apprentices of all ages who will benefit from working in our new Health and Science Campus, a state-of-the-art facility that has been created to support skills needs within the NHS, health and care sectors.” 

Professor Gurpreet Jagpal, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Suffolk, said:

“This transformative initiative represents our commitment to addressing the critical workforce challenges in health and social care in our region. “By establishing CEHA we are taking a vital step towards providing the East of England with a coordinated and efficient solution to the recruitment and retention issues that have plagued the sector.” 

Amanda Lyes, Director of Workforce and People at NHS Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board, said:

“We are so pleased to be a part of the new Centre of Excellence for Health Apprenticeships and recognise the potential this offers to people to achieve a long and fulfilling career in the NHS. “We know from our staff that for many the work they do is hugely rewarding and enrolling on an apprenticeship offers a combination of practical learning, on-the-job training and study, which opens up opportunities in hundreds of different NHS career roles. “This is the first time that so many partner organisations have come together with the aim of championing careers in the health and social care sector, and giving those who want it the chance to unlock a long and happy career.” 

Sharon Crowle, Head of Professional Education, Training and Development, NHS Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board, said:

“This innovative approach provides a fantastic opportunity to encourage and support many people into clinical apprenticeship pathways. I am delighted that NHS Norfolk and Waveney are actively involved with the Centre of Excellence for Health Apprenticeships, and look forward to seeing individuals successfully completing their apprenticeships and working across our system.”

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