Skills for Care

Why apprenticeships can be a positive addition to your recruitment strategy

25 Aug 2021

Skills for Care

  • Recruitment
  • Workforce development

As part of our #RecruitmentReady spotlight we spoke with one care provider about how they’ve used apprenticeship programmes and the benefits it’s had for their organisation and their recruitment strategy.

Apprenticeships are a great way to recruit new staff, while also providing opportunities for people who are just beginning their journeys in the care sector. Apprenticeships can also be used as a tool to upskill existing staff into new roles to develop and grow your team from the inside rather than recruiting externally.

We spoke to Sunlight Care Group to gain insight into how they’ve embraced apprenticeships, and how it’s worked for them during a pandemic to recruit new staff and upskill their existing staff into new roles.

Sunlight Care Group

Sunlight Care Group work towards a future where all minds are supported and empowered, whatever the challenges. The people they support are at the heart of everything they do. But, after talking to Steven Paul-Wingate Davis, Registered Manager, and Ali Sharif, Operations Director, it’s clear that Sunlight’s workforce is also front and centre when it comes to enabling everyone to achieve their aspirations.

Apprenticeships and the pandemic

Through prompt and savvy investment in a variety of apprenticeship programmes early in the pandemic, Sunlight Care was able to upskill right across its workforce by developing their staff to undertake new roles as part of an apprenticeship, as well as hiring new apprentices.

Utilising the adult care worker apprenticeship, they recruited new workers by promoting a career in care and investing in their new recruits’ futures.

They also utilised the lead adult care worker and healthcare assistant practitioner apprenticeships to provide their established workforce with opportunities to develop themselves and redefine their roles. They told us that this “higher skills set has been critical” in supporting their customers and other professionals.

At Sunlight Care, the healthcare assistant practitioner apprentices have developed and played a key role in supporting district nurses and reducing hospital admissions during the pandemic. They’ve carried out healthcare tasks, mental health interventions, insulin administration and wound care, as well as demonstrating courage and confidence in managing complex situations with occupational therapists, nurses, and GPs.

Enthusiastic apprentices

Steven told us that apprentices who are new to the organisation and those who are working in new roles are keen to learn and develop their skills. He said:

“When people see they can do more, they want to do more.”

During the pandemic, the upskilling of the existing workforce through apprenticeship programmes as well as the onboarding of new apprentices allowed learners to provide additional care and support to the people they were supporting and feel they were “really contributing to society”, Steven says.

The team at Sunlight Care have found apprentices to be motivated, invested in their role and ambitious about progression. Of the 20 new assistant practitioners at Sunlight Care, a quarter have already taken on additional responsibilities, such as supporting Care Certificate learners or delivering training.

Others have progressed into senior management roles or leading on medication compliance; two have even had university offers.

Whilst Steven and Ali will be sad to see these apprentices move on, they’re passionate about “working with [learners] to assess their needs and move them forwards.”

Championing apprenticeships

Steven feels that apprenticeships, “provide a world of opportunities in a sector where people don’t always have them or celebrate them.”

Apprenticeships form an important part on Sunlight’s recruitment strategy; 50% of Sunlight Care’s workforce are apprentices, and to date their retention rate is extremely high, at 95%.

Steven and Ali feel their employer-led, hands-on approach has a lot to do with this, enabling learners to be fully supported, guided, and offered opportunities to progress.

Apprenticeships also offer Sunlight Care excellent value for money. As a non-levy payer, they contribute 5% of the overall cost which Steven and Ali see as extremely cost-effective for such a robust, adaptable programme.

In terms of return on investment, aside from a motivated, skilled workforce able to better support their customers and community, the higher level of skill across their workforce has allowed Sunlight to rapidly expand its services. They now deliver almost 10 times more support hours than they did prior to implementing an apprenticeship scheme.

Achieving off-the-job training

Sunlight Care’s commitment to individual development has meant that achieving the 20% off-the-job training component of the apprenticeships hasn’t presented a challenge.

They have a creative, engaging, and comprehensive learning and development pathway, which means that learners achieve their off-the-job training with ease. Learning is seen as a crucial part of all workers’ roles, and they have the support of their manager to achieve this.

Adult care worker and lead adult care worker apprentices are issued with a workbook to help them structure their learning, collect evidence, and reflect on their practice.

End Point Assessment

All apprentices complete an End Point Assessment (EPA) at the end of their apprenticeships programme and receive a final grade based on this. EPA activities vary across different apprenticeship standards, but might include a combination of: multiple choice tests, observations, professional discussions, or reflective practice.

Sunlight Care sees the EPA as a crucial element in an apprentices’ journey – providing a sense of pride and ensuring the apprentice finishes what they started.

As well as giving the programme more credibility, EPA ensures that the apprenticeship is “a quality programme and has a level of rigour” above and beyond achieving a standalone qualification.

Discover apprenticeships

Funding is available for organisations wishing to recruit apprentices. However, the level of contribution will depend on whether your organisation is a levy, or non-levy payer. You can find more information about funding on our website.

If you’re interested in finding out more about welcoming apprentices into your organisation, we have everything you need on our website Take a look at our apprenticeship section.

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How the National Care Forum Kickstart Scheme can help you recruit new people into the sector