As part of National Apprenticeship Week, Jess Scrimshaw, Programme Manager – Partnerships and Workforce Development at the Leeds Health and Care Academy, discusses the importance and benefits of a collaborative apprenticeship approach.
In my role at the Leeds Health and Care Academy, I oversee the workforce development programmes within the Learning and Culture team. As part of this work, I’ve been leading on collaborative apprenticeships for two years, and in that time, we’ve seen demand for apprenticeships rise significantly. In 2022, we recorded a 268% increase in expressions of interest from people who wanted to apply for an apprenticeship compared to the year before. To date we’ve supported 87 apprentices from 13 organisations to develop priority skills in project management, data analysis and leadership via collaborative apprenticeships.
What is a collaborative apprenticeship, and what makes it different from any other learning opportunity?
An apprenticeship involves studying alongside work, developing new skills, and putting these skills into practice to gain a recognised professional qualification. In Leeds, we support several collaborative apprenticeship cohorts made up of individuals from across the sector – our learning opportunities can be accessed by anybody who works or volunteers for a Leeds-based health and care team or organisation – which is where the ‘collaborative’ element comes in. In a collaborative apprenticeship, you learn alongside a network of peers who work in different areas of our health and care system.
For National Apprenticeship Week 2023 I’ve taken some time to reflect on what really does make our collaborative approach in Leeds so unique…
1. Building unique networks and connections – in what other setting would you have the chance to learn alongside a sister from a hospice, a team leader from a charity, a pharmacy technician, a communications manager and a clinical scientist, who all work for different organisations? The collaborative approach means apprentices can develop stronger networks, understand how different parts of the system connect, and create innovative ideas when problem solving.
2. Opportunities across our whole sector – the way apprenticeships are funded means that it’s easier for larger organisations to access funding than others. By working together, we can ensure that all parts of our system can access this funding. This means we can support staff from a range of organisations to access programmes: from individual GP practices, charities, and care homes all the way through to our larger council and NHS organisations.
3. Making a difference – by upskilling via an apprenticeship, individuals feel supported in their career development, grow in confidence as their skills develop, and can focus on finding their own opportunities for growth. Teams and organisations see a return on investment through new ways of working, for example by building capable and confident managers, or embedding advanced data processes. Collaboration also means benefits across partners, where our apprentices have undertaken projects which create positive impact for the whole system. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a Data Analyst used their new skills to link datasets and build an interactive, shareable map showing vaccine uptake across Leeds. This enabled colleagues across the city to identify areas of low vaccine uptake and prioritise outreach.
4. High-quality learning for Leeds – through our unique partnership model we’re connecting health and care partners with stand-out educational providers. We work closely with the apprenticeship providers to make sure every programme is engaging, relevant to the breadth of roles in our sector and grounded in the #TeamLeeds ethos. I’m proud to say that apprentices consistently give exceptional feedback, with the satisfaction score of our data analyst apprenticeship currently recorded as 100%.
5. Learning in different ways – there are a whole range of ways to connect, learn and develop through our collaborative apprenticeships, in addition to the formal learning setting. This could be anything from taking part in a hackathon, attending an apprenticeship network session with a director from Leeds, or simply connecting with a fellow apprentice over coffee. Apprenticeships aim to be an inclusive way to learn and develop skills as they cover a wide range of learning methods and settings.
6. Opening doors – when I joined the Academy the team had just launched the Data Analyst apprenticeship, which is now in its fourth cohort. The portfolio has grown significantly since then, and we now offer five different apprenticeships (including a degree level programme) and are currently exploring new clinical, professional and care apprenticeships for Leeds. Establishing the collaborative way of working opens exciting new opportunities for our system, and I’m incredibly excited to see where the next 12 months takes us!