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Developing a degree level apprenticeship standard for therapeutic radiography

10 April, 2018

Author: Hazel (Baz) Rogers, Head of Radiotherapy, Leeds Cancer Centre (Therapeutic Radiographer Apprenticeship Trailblazer Chair) and Gemma Burke, Senior Lecturer, Sheffield Hallam University (Therapeutic Radiographer Apprenticeship Trailblazer Member)

Radiotherapy

Representatives from employers and higher education institutions from across England recently attended a therapeutic radiographer degree level apprenticeship stakeholder meeting at Sheffield Hallam University.

The purpose was to ensure that all parties interested in becoming involved in the therapeutic radiographer apprenticeship left with an understanding of what it is, and what is required if they were to agree to becoming a member of the trailblazer group.

So what is a degree level apprenticeship?
It is a way of combining on the job training and degree level study, whilst being employed by an organisation such as an NHS trust.

It enables someone to develop and demonstrate the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to perform effectively in a particular occupation.

Each occupation has to be defined clearly by an apprenticeship standard and the remit of the trailblazer group is to write the occupational profile, standard and accompanying end point assessment for that particular occupation. This can then be used in partnership with employers and training providers to train apprentices within that occupation.

It is important to note that the trailblazer and apprenticeship standard apply to England only.  Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have different apprenticeship schemes, but employers are not currently seeking to develop therapeutic radiographer apprenticeships.

Why do we need a degree apprenticeship in therapeutic radiography?
It is widely recognised the current workforce is not sufficient to meet the expanding demands of an ageing population, as described in the UK Cancer Taskforce Report for England.

In addition, emerging technologies, such as the opening of a number of UK proton centres, also seek to increase demand on an already under-resourced workforce.

It is also important to note that the impact of the introduction of fee payment and the removal of the bursary for undergraduate students is as yet unknown, however, anecdotally higher education institutions across the UK have, and continue to experience, challenging recruitment cycles.

The development of an apprenticeship standard in therapeutic radiography offers the opportunity to address some of these issues in England and also provides a great opportunity to mould our future workforce to meet the needs of patients and the rapidly evolving service, whilst also considering our current training models.

The therapeutic radiographer trailblazer
The trailblazer is an employer-led group, tasked to develop an occupational profile and standard that accurately describes the duties, knowledge, skills and behaviours required to be eligible to register with the Health and Care Professions Council as a therapeutic radiographer.

It is important to note that the trailblazer is NOT tasked with the local and/or national implementation of apprenticeships, and it is not responsible for solving all of the workforce challenges within radiotherapy. The focus is to develop the occupational profile, apprenticeship standard, and the end point assessment.

Where are we now?
Following approval of a Therapeutic Radiographer Degree Apprenticeship Expression of Interest to the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA), we have been given the green light to become a trailblazer.

The trailblazer is now at the stage of gaining commitment from employers, HEIs and other parties to begin to develop the apprenticeship standard and the end point assessment.

The wider stakeholder meeting
The morning session was opened by Hazel (Baz) Rodger, chair of the trailblazer, who provided an overview of the responsibilities and remit of the trailblazer group. Following the chair were a variety of keynote speakers who delivered information about their involvement in degree apprenticeships including; the Institute for Apprenticeships, Skills for Health, and the Sheffield Hallam University degree apprenticeship adviser.

The SCoR and HCPC also provided an overview of their involvement in degree apprenticeships.

The afternoon session consisted of table discussions where participants were asked to answer two key questions:

  • What is your vision of a qualified apprentice therapeutic radiographer?  
  • What tasks and activities should they be able to do?

The meeting concluded with a successful request for a commitment from a minimum of 12 employers (to add to the four currently signed up) and four HEIs to form the trailblazer group. The information collected in the afternoon session will be used to inform a draft apprenticeship standard, which was further discussed and developed in the first trailblazer meeting, held on Wednesday 21 March 2018.

If you are interested in reading more about apprenticeships, information can be found on the following websites:

Institute for Apprenticeships
Skills for Health

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