Promoting partnership working in the NHS

Developing Modern Apprentices in Partnership - NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

The organisation

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (NHSGGC) serves a population of 1.2 million and employs around 38,000 staff. It is the largest NHS organisation in Scotland and one of the largest in the UK.


NHSGGC worked in partnership with NHS HR managers, trade unions and other stakeholders, to establish a successful Modern Apprenticeship programme. The programme enabled local young people (many of whom would struggle to enter the labour market in the challenging economic climate), to get a foot on the employment ladder while at the same time addressing future healthcare workforce issues and responding to the government's youth employment targets.

The challenge

The Scottish Government has prioritised the issue of youth unemployment. In June 2014, this led to the publication of the final report of the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce, Education Working for All, and Scottish Government’s Youth Employment Strategy, Developing the Young Workforce. Both publications highlight the need for improvements in the transition of young people from education into sustainable and productive employment.

The Scottish Government asked all NHS boards in Scotland to support a public sector pledge to offer a training or employment opportunity to one young person for every 100 whole time equivalent employees. This linked in with the priority mission of NHSGGC to tackle health inequalities, improve health and wellbeing, develop young people’s self-esteem, and reduce poorer health and wellbeing outcomes as a result of unemployment.

The organisation also needed to increase the number of younger employees to ensure a sustainable workforce. In March 2015, 34 per cent of the NHSGGC’s workforce was over 50 years old. The proportion of the workforce aged over 50 has since increased by a further 1.4 per cent, and it is anticipated that levels will continue to increase across the next decade and beyond.

NHSGGC initially engaged in a pilot programme in 2009 to test out the use of Modern Apprenticeships (MAs). There was recognition of the future challenges of the ageing workforce, and with only 3.3 per cent of the workforce aged under 24 years of age, it was clear NHSGGC had to act to increase the number of young people employed to ensure a suitably skilled workforce was in place to meet future service demand. 

This led to the 2012 Youth Employment Plan which had a significant emphasis on the development of a MA programme. This plan was reviewed in 2014 and enhanced by the refreshed Strategic Education Partnership to improve awareness of NHS job and career opportunities and the pathways into these for young people, and further expansion of the MA programme.

Delivering a successful MA programme within NHSGGC needed a genuine partnership approach to establish apprenticeships as a valuable recruitment and training tool, in an organisation that did not have a track record in apprenticeship recruitment or in attracting recruits aged 16–24.

The process

NHSGGC’s MA programme commenced in September 2013 with the appointment of 51 apprentices. The HR Employability Steering Group (HR EG), responsible for the planning and implementation of the programme, was made up of representatives from a range of services within the organisation along with trade unions (UNISON & Unite), Skills Development Scotland (MA funding provider) and Glasgow Clyde College (MA training provider). The programme was project managed by the workforce employability lead who worked closely with all stakeholders and reported directly into the HR EG.

Members of the HR EG were responsible for drawing up a project plan to:

  • communicate and advise all NHSGGC services/staff about the MA programme objectives, delivery method, and timescales
  • support NHSGGC services to identify suitable apprenticeship posts with links to workforce planning requirements and appropriate on the job training packages
  • identify a suitably experienced and accredited training provider
  • design an advertising and recruitment programme, which includes support for managers new to recruiting MAs, information session for prospective applicants and pre-interview guidance sessions for candidates
  • provide specialist guidance and support to managers, mentors and apprentices throughout duration of apprenticeships
  • provide guidance documentation to support delivery of MAs, from the identification of the apprenticeship role to completion of training and transition into permanent employment.

The NHSGGC area partnership forum and the local partnership structures are underpinned by a joint partnership agreement. NHSGGC and trade unions jointly agreed suitable posts and training for inclusion in the MA programme, and established the annual UNISON and Unite MA of the Year award in 2014. Each brought their expertise to planning, developing, hosting and delivering key aspects of the programme and were involved from the outset.

During the initial stages of development, NHSGGC was in the middle of a period of workforce reductions, acute services redesign and changes to ways of working. NHSGGC needed to be sensitive to the fact they were creating new opportunities at a time when the organisation overall were losing posts. The programme relied on trade union representatives to assist in promoting youth employment opportunities in a manner that satisfied managers/staff, and also to make sure the new MA posts did not adversely affect training, development and progression opportunities for existing staff. Staff side input was key to the success of the programme and supported the development and implementation, including through clear communications about its aims and objectives, the types of posts available, championing apprenticeships in local services, and reinforcing the need for commitment to permanent posts on completion of the training.


As of March 2016:

  • 101 apprentices have been recruited over the first two phases of the programme
  • 27 apprentices have completed the programme and remain employed within NHSGGC
  • five apprentices have completed but chose not to take up offer of a permanent post
  • four went onto nursing related programmes at university or college and one left for a non-health related degree programme
  • 11 apprentices have left the programme before completion
  • 58 apprentices are continuing to work towards completion of their training
  • a new intake of 75 posts is being developed for recruitment in 2016.

Since April 2014, NHSGGC has employed 340 new employees aged 16-24 years. This age group now represents 4.4 per cent of the 38,000 NHSGGC workforce, an increase of 1 per cent since April 2014. The increase in the number of young people employed indicates the positive impact the programme has had on tackling NHSGGC’s priority and there are also plans to expand the MA programme.

In partnership with UNISON and Unite, NHSGGC has sponsored a local Modern Apprentice of the Year award. The award celebrates the success of the programme and recognises the achievements of young people within the workforce. As part of their entry, MAs are expected to reflect and provide personal evidence on how their work is ultimately beneficial to patient care within the organisation.

A variety of support documents have been developed, including:

  • overarching guidance for organisations that want to commence the MA development process
  • MA application form
  • template contract document developed with MA specific content
  • job specific MA training programmes outlines.

The guidance documents would be easily transferable to wider UK healthcare organisations.

Top tips

  1. Involve trade union colleagues from the initial stage of the programme.
  2. Communicate the right messages, promoting youth employment opportunities while making sure the existing workforce is not adversely affected.
  3. Formally establish a project steering group, including a wide range of stakeholders, to share learning and bring expertise together.

Contact Details

Laura McKie, Workforce Employability Lead -

Donald Sime, Employee Director –