What will they mean for the profession and should we welcome or oppose them? Charlotte Beardmore, the Society’s director of professional policy, answers your questions.
What are degree level apprenticeships?
For some years there have been apprenticeships for healthcare support workers and assistants, but not to degree level. The new proposals are to introduce apprenticeships to degree level for the allied health professions and midwives.
Apprenticeships combine practical training with study. Apprentices are employed for a minimum of 30 hours a week whilst they are studying towards an apprenticeship standard.
Individual employers apply for financial support from the Skills Funding Agency. An ‘apprenticeship standard’ specifies the skills and knowledge required to achieve competence for a role.
An apprenticeship standard for a registered nurse degree has been published by the Skills Funding Agency (bit.ly/2hOEdK9) and a recent (and very brief) consultation has asked for responses to proposals to extend degree level apprenticeships to AHPs and midwives.
The government has been promoting apprenticeships across all levels of industry and professions for some time. Extending them more broadly to healthcare is linked to the issues around student funding for AHPs and the withdrawal of bursaries in England from 1 August 2017.
The government’s intention is that an apprenticeship route into radiography and other professions will open opportunities for people who cannot, or will find it difficult to, qualify via the ‘traditional’ degree route.
But won’t apprenticeships be a ‘second-class’ qualification?
An individual who achieves qualification and, ultimately, registration as a ‘Radiographer’ via a degree level apprenticeship will have to achieve the same standards as someone who has qualified via an undergraduate programme.
The SCoR will be keeping a very close eye on the development of the apprenticeship standards that apply to radiotherapy, diagnostic radiography, therapeutic radiography, and medical ultrasound.
We shall be engaging with the Department for Education to ensure that the standards are in line with the traditional routes to radiographer training. They must be fit for purpose, meet the HCPC standards and be aligned to the CoR practitioner level learning outcomes.
We are talking to employers who have applied to the Department for Education to be apprenticeship ‘trailblazers’. If you know that your employer is applying to be a trailblazer, please email [email protected] to let us know.
Does this only affect England?
At present, yes, but the administrations of the three other countries of the UK will be following developments closely.
Are there any downsides to degree level apprenticeships?
There are a number of concerns that will not become clear until the government’s plans are clarified:
1. What employment status will apprentice radiographers have? Will they have job security for the duration of their apprenticeship?
2. What impact will apprenticeships have on the job market?
3. How will departments and SCoR members be able to support apprentices? Can over-stretched and very busy departments manage clinical placements and apprentices without having an impact on patient care and services?
The Society is discussing these points with the other allied health professions, professional bodies and education providers.
There are many questions to be answered and the way forward is unclear. As mentioned, the government held a consultation about the proposals over a very brief period (two weeks) and we now wait to hear how they plan to take the proposals forward.
What is the SCoR’s position?
UK Council recognises that the UK government will encourage the development of the apprenticeship within industry and the public sector.
Although apprenticeship programmes will develop primarily in the English economy, UK Council recognises that this form of learning and qualification will impact on education programmes and job opportunity across the UK.
UK Council notes the degree of uncertainty that exists over the development and the impact that apprenticeships at all levels could have on the profession and on employment. It also recognises that questions over apprenticeships are creating some anxiety amongst members.
Council believes that it is essential to engage with stakeholders, those submitting trailblazer applications (that will initially test and develop the programme) and education providers.
SCoR engagement will ensure that professional standards and employment rights are not compromised or eroded by employers or the government.
UK Council will constantly monitor and review progress with implementation of any scheme and will ensure that members are fully informed of developments via the website, social media, Synergy News and in e-zines.