Qualifications in apprenticeships for healthcare occupations

5 September, 2019

Welcome to this month’s Apprenticeship Chat Series 

Generally speaking, qualifications are recognised and highly valued in the health sector and especially for healthcare occupations. Statutory healthcare regulators operate registers where qualifications are often the only approved way of meeting the regulators standards, professional bodies provide recognition schemes, employers use them as a recruitment tool and the public trust them as a measure of quality. So, when the apprenticeship reforms in England removed any mandatory requirement for apprentices to complete a qualification, except under certain conditions, offering instead a synoptic, independent end-point assessment, it was a shock to the system.

Nonetheless, employers from the health sector have engaged extensively and willingly in the apprenticeship reforms both leading and contributing to the development of new apprenticeship standards through Trailblazer groups. They have worked hard to ensure that the reformed apprenticeship system can be used to best effect for the sector and all that use it. Using one of a small number of criteria set by the Institute for inclusion of a qualification, employers have designed apprenticeship standards for healthcare occupations that, in a majority of cases, do mandate the completion of a publicly recognised qualification.

This can begin to feel quite complex and raises questions in our minds about the relative value and status of formative assessments completed for checking and development purposes, summative assessments for the purposes of awarding qualifications and synoptic independent end-point assessment.

The most straightforward way to unpick these complexities is to look at 3 examples.

 

An example is the Healthcare Support Worker apprenticeship. The apprenticeship standard describes the knowledge, skills and behaviours which must be developed during the apprenticeship to become a healthcare support worker at level 2. These should be considered as outcomes. The end-point assessment plan describes three assessments which will be taken by the apprentice at the end of their apprenticeship. This can be considered as the way to measure that the apprentice has met the outcomes described in the standard. Neither the standard nor the assessment plan describes how the apprentice will develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours or how these might be measured along the way; the employer and training provider are free to design the apprenticeship programme and any on-programme formative assessments to be undertaken. The apprentice must, however, be prepared for success in the independent end-point assessment.

 

An example is the Senior Healthcare Support Worker apprenticeship. The apprenticeship standard describes the knowledge, skills and behaviours which must be developed during the apprenticeship to become a senior healthcare support worker at level 3. Again, these are the outcomes. The end-point assessment plan describes three assessments which will be taken by the apprentice at the end of their apprenticeship. This is the way to measure that the apprentice has met the outcomes described in the standard. Once again neither the standard nor the assessment plan describes how the apprentice will develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours, however, in this instance the apprentice must complete a L3 Diploma in Healthcare Support prior to attempting the end-point assessment. The L3 Diploma in Healthcare Support is a gateway requirement and a pre-requisite to end-point assessment. The synoptic, independent end-point assessment is additional to the on-programme qualification requirement.

 

An example is the Dietitian degree apprenticeship. The apprenticeship standard aligns with HCPC standards of proficiency and apprentices must complete an HCPC approved level 6 (or level 7) Degree in Dietetics. In apprenticeship terms, the dietetic apprentice undertakes the majority of their degree whilst on programme, completing all the learning, formative and summative assessments set by the university and gaining 340 credits (160 for a level 7 degree). The remaining 20 credits is reserved for end-point assessment. Successful completion of 340 credits (160 at level 7) of the degree is a gateway requirement and is therefore a pre-requisite to attempting the apprenticeship end-point assessment. The end-point assessment is synoptic and is a university assessment undertaken by an independent individual as part of their dietetic degree.