Promoting partnership working in the NHS

Apprenticeship Implementation Project - Aintree University Hospital

Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is a large hospital providing healthcare in Merseyside 24 hours 7 days a week, to a population in excess of 330,000, with a catchment area of over 33 miles. The staff compliment for band 1 to 4 staff is in excess of 2000, with little or no accredited training for staff within those pay bands. In line with a national push led by Skills Academy for Health (Health Education England) the trust chose to engage with apprenticeship training and promote this as a development tool to our band 1 to 4 staff.  Apprenticeships were seen a good development route for staff as they would help to address issues such as literacy and numeracy, improve job knowledge and develop skills. Unison readily agreed to support with engagement by offering the services of their Union Learning Representative (ULR).

Using a social partnership approach, the apprenticeship implementation project has, since 2009, resulted in over 600 staff starting apprenticeships, with their apprenticeship framework delivering an almost 90 per cent success rate. As a direct result of apprenticeship training almost 15 per cent of the workforce are now vocationally competent, and about 25 per cent of apprentices have secured more senior level posts.

The challenge – increasing the number of apprenticeships

Unison has been part of the project since its inception, with a trade union representative attending senior meetings to raise awareness of the apprenticeship agenda and to encourage support from board level representatives. A lead URL was recruited to the project, and additional funding for each learner was made available from Skills Academy for Health Northwest to help with employer costs and time release. The Learning and Development Team and Unison also identfied members of staff to lead on embedding apprenticeship training in the trust.

In year one, the project targeted ancillary staff, as they were eligible for funding subsidies. The staff recruited to apprenticeships typically had not accessed any formal education since leaving school and had received no accredited training while in post. Many of the first cohort of apprentices were recruited from departments where the culture did not encourage staff to do any development activity, apart from mandatory training required for the post. 

The solution – working in partnership, engaging with staff and motivating them to take advantage of apprenticeships

In partnership with Unison and unionlearn, the trust ran staff engagement events and unionlearn facilitated surgeries for staff and managers in the workplace to meet those involved in running the training and find out more about apprenticeships. The trust faced a challenge which was to dispell the misconception amongst staff that apprenticeships were exclusively for school leavers. ULRs helped dispel this view and explained the benefits of the programmes and motivated staff to engage in the project. The partnership approach also helped them to promote the apprenticeship agenda to staff at all levels, which generated a terrific amount of interest from potential learners. As a result, they received many nominations from both individuals and managers.

The next step was to invite learners to sessions so they could find out more information about apprenticeship training, complete initial assessments, and be made aware of the additional opportunities and support available. These sessions gave learners a thorough understanding of the challenge faced and the support that would be available to them. After signing up, learners were given the names of support staff who could help them deal with any problems they faced and make sure they had a positive learning experience. Since the first cohort in 2009, former learners act as apprentice ambassadors and ULRs who are happy to share their experiences with staff champion apprenticeships to trust management.

Staff who previously had poor learning experiences often would not engage with the functional skills aspect of the programme. To address this the trust offered managers funding to back-fill for staff to enable them to attend maths sessions with a group of their peers, whom they felt comfortable with.

Building on the success of the project, the trust works closely with training providers to raise delivery standards and introduce delivery models to suit the needs of their workforce.

The trust has now introduced advanced apprenticeships, to encourage wider participation for higher banded staff. They have 30 learners on the advanced programme. They have also introduced:

  • more support for literacy and numeracy
  • the Digital Inclusion Project to target staff with limited IT skills to help them get on-line
  • links with local agencies who can support staff with learning difficulties
  • a coaching service  so that learners are able to access support to help them realistheir potential. 

What has been achieved

Since 2009, over 600 staff have embarked on apprenticeships, with an almost 90 per cent success rate. The apprenticeship project has delivered tangible business benefits for the trust. Retention rates of staff who have completed apprenticeships is almost three times higher than national NHS staff retention rates. Around 40 per cent of staff who have completed an apprenticeship report they have either experienced career progression or embarked on further study. 

Quote Aintree patient care

Apprenticeships enabled the trust to ‘grow their own’ qualified nurses, with approximately 38 per cent of health care assistants who started their career as an apprentice, progressing to full nursing degrees. Programmes have exceeded expectations, over a quarter of band 1-4 staff have completed apprenticeships and are now vocationally competent in their roles.

The apprenticeship programme has been so successful that the trust are offering higher advanced apprenticeships to higher banded staff. The trust, working with Unison, will also be piloting an apprenticeship recruitment programme to attract young people from their local community  to help with their ageing staff demographic.

For further information please contact:

Fiona Chapman, NVQ Coordinator:  

Marie Reece, Lead Union Learning Prepresentative: