Speaking ahead of National Apprenticeship Week (11-15 March), Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, is encouraging more NHS organisations to benefit from available support and add to the rapid growth in NHS apprenticeship programmes.

NHS Employers will be providing free advice and 'myth-busters' during the Week to help employers develop new apprenticeship schemes and boost apprentice numbers, developed in partnership with unions.

Dean Royles said:

"Our first priority is high quality patient care. To deliver that, we have to have the very best staff working at all levels and in all roles. There's been a startling increase in NHS apprenticeships over the past three years which is a remarkable achievement, given the challenges we face. We're one of the world's biggest employers and have well over a million staff, and the 8,000 apprenticeships who started in the last year make a fantastic contribution to the care we provide."

In 2008 the NHS employed 1,300 apprentices, according to Department of Health figures. In 2011/12 this rose to 8,000 new starters.

Mr Royles added:

"HR directors in the NHS are promoting apprenticeship programmes that reach out into the local community and schools. They know meaningful work is good for the health of their local population. They're finding fantastic, enthusiastic applicants. And NHS organisations have always tried to learn from each others' successes so I predict more great NHS apprenticeship programmes soon.

"This growth in apprentices is happening because organisations are overcoming the cultural and procedural hurdles they face. Senior staff and team leaders increasingly recognise the benefits apprentices bring - new ideas, energy, how to use social media and developing technologies as well as commitment. And we need to help organisations through the complexities of putting apprenticeships into action, which include transferring staff between roles or knowing how organisations like the National Apprentice Service can help.

"Apprentices are trying out new roles and can slot into a career they can feel proud of. The chance they're given is often a second chance - a way to get their life back on track - and they often feel really engaged and passionate about their role.

"NHS Employers is providing guidance and detailed myth-busting advice throughout National Apprenticeship Week to help organisations get great programmes moving forward. This can only be a good thing for the NHS, which wants the very best talent, and also for the apprentices and the wider community that needs more people in stable careers."

During National Apprenticeship Week, NHS Employers will be highlighting the biggest myths about apprenticeships that are hurdles to more programmes being developed:

1. “We’re too busy to look after them”. With good planning, support or mentoring in the short-term quickly gives way to long-term benefits and a loyal worker who feels supported and committed to the organisation.

2. “They’ll spend too much time out of the workplace in training”. The amount of training they need varies a lot and can often be given within the workplace. Depending on the type of role, or the elements of training being undertaken, it could be just one day per week or grouped into a block of time.

3. “We’ve no vacancies”. NHS organisations should be supported to consider all Band 1 to 4 vacancies, which can range from administrator to laboratory assistant, receptionist to IT analyst, nursing assistant to plumber. There are over 30 different NHS career related apprenticeship frameworks to choose from. The National Apprenticeship Service and regional NHS colleges are able to support trusts in matching vacancies to frameworks.

4. “They don’t do apprenticeships in my department”. The NHS has identified a variety of job roles that can be undertaken as an apprenticeship.

5. "Young people can't get a Criminal Record Bureau check done if they're under 18". CRB checks can be obtained from age 16. Sometimes young people struggle to provide evidence of identity e.g. passports, driving licence, bank account. But training providers are familiar with this and can support employers through the process.

6. "Apprentices always need to be employed for a minimum of 30 hrs". Employment must be for at least 30 hours per week, except in the minority of circumstances where the learner cannot complete the full 30 hours. In these cases, employment must be for more than 16 hours per week and the duration should be amended accordingly.

Jane Hadfield is assistant director of HR/learning and development at North Bristol NHS Trust. The Trust has been using apprenticeships – through the Skills Funding Agency contract – to shine a light on its job opportunities for young people. Ms Hadfield said:

“As a big employer we’re keenly interested in securing our future workforce, but we are also an education provider in our own right. Trying to align suitable posts for apprenticeships is our way of trying to suggest to young people they’ve got a way of both training and working in the NHS. There’s an absolute synergy with patient safety.”