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What is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are designed to provide real jobs that are supported by work-based training programmes enabling young people and adults to gain job-specific skills and study for a related qualification.


Apprentices must be aged 16 or over and, except in exceptional circumstances, should work for at least 30 hours per week. Lasting a minimum of 12 months, apprenticeships typically combine on-the-job training at an employer’s site with off-the-job training provided by a training organisation.

Benefits for employers

Employers engage with apprenticeships for a variety of reasons. In a recent survey, the most popular driver (cited by 95% of employers) was to maintain or improve future skill levels in the organisation. Other motivations included: improve product or service quality (82%), improve productivity (80%), improve staff retention (78%), improve staff morale (76%), improve the employer’s ability to attract good staff (73%), and to bring new ideas into the organisation (71%). 

Browse our case studies to see how healthcare employers across the public, private and voluntary sectors have benefited from taking on apprentices.

Types of apprenticeship

There are currently over 200 different apprenticeships, known as apprenticeship frameworks, now referred to as standards, covering more than 1,500 job roles and 170 industries. As part of the current government’s apprenticeship reforms, frameworks are being replaced by employer-designed apprenticeship standards. Some of the new apprenticeship standards are ready for delivery and the government envisages that the migration from frameworks to standards will take place during the course of this parliament.

Apprenticeships are available at intermediate, advanced, and higher and degree levels. This enables employers to select the most relevant standard for the requirements of the job role and the apprentice’s previous experience, and, where possible, to provide a clearly defined progression pathway.

Visit Healthcare Apprenticeship Standards Online to search for and download standards that are approved for delivery and ready to use – HASO is the one stop shop for healthcare apprenticeship standards enabling you to keep up to date with standards that have been approved and those still in development.

The Apprenticeship Levy

The government is also reforming apprenticeship funding, including the introduction of an apprenticeship levy in April 2017 to fund new apprenticeships. The levy will be paid by all private and public sector employers in the UK with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million. Levy paying employers will be able to use the money collected to pay for training for apprentices via a new Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS) account. The government says those employers not paying the levy will continue to have access to government funding to support apprenticeships. Further details about apprenticehip funding from May 2017 were announced on 12 August 2016.

Apprenticeships in the healthcare sector

Apprenticeship standards relevant to clinical roles in the health sector include: Dental Nursing, Clinical Healthcare Support, Healthcare Support Services, Pharmacy Services, Optical Retail, Maternity and Paediatric Support, Perioperative Support, Emergency Care, Pathology Support and Allied Health Profession Support.

New apprenticeships standards are being developed for a variety of clinical roles, with many already available for delivery. These include: Healthcare Assistant Practitioner, Healthcare Support Worker, Senior Healthcare Assistant/Senior Nursing Assistant, Dental Technician, Dental Nurse, Pharmacy Services Assistant and Ophthalmic Technician.

There are also many non-clinical apprenticeships relevant to the health sector. These develop skills in a wide variety of support roles and include standards such as Business and Administration, Plumbing and Heating, Customer Service and Payroll, and new standards for Carpentry and Joinery, Facilities Management Supervisor, Data Analyst and HR Support.

Thinking of hiring an apprentice, but not sure where to start?

The Academy's apprenticeship experts provide advice and guidance on all aspects of employing apprentices. They will help you identify which apprenticeship programmes would benefit your organisation the most, advise on funding and grants to help stretch your training budget and ensure you secure the best training provision through our network of quality-assured providers. If you are thinking about becoming a registered apprenticeship provider, whether for your own staff or others, we can support you to make that transition, ensuring you have the processes and expertise in house to deliver the best quality training.

We can also recruit, employ and manage apprentices on your behalf through our Apprenticeship Training Agency (ATA). This service enables you to benefit from hosting an apprentice within your organisation but, as the apprentice is employed by the ATA, we will take care of any HR issues, performance management and payroll administration.

To find out more about NSA Apprenticeship services and support, please call 020 7391 7173 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..