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Evaluating the Implementation of Apprenticeships in Health and Social Care


Apprenticeships allow people of all ages to earn while they learn and gain the skills they need for their career. They are an important way to train and develop staff in health and social care. The NHSE Long Term Workforce Plan (LTWP) and the DHSC paper ‘Putting People at the Heart of Care (PPHC) (2021) aim to make high quality apprenticeships available in health and social care.

Health and social care employers face some shared but also different challenges in introducing and managing apprenticeships in their workplaces. Funding trainees to cover all costs and placements can be problematic in both sectors, with scope for them to work together to deliver training.

For some apprenticeships the standards and qualifications can be the same whether completed in health or in social care. This can lead to people completing their apprenticeship and then moving from social care to healthcare or vice versa, with the employer losing their investment in the apprentices’ training.

Aims and objectives

This project aims to look at the similarities and differences between the health and social care sectors in how they are carrying out this apprenticeship agenda.

  • We will look at the take-up and distribution of apprenticeships across the health and social care workforce, the employer apprenticeship aims, and how apprenticeships are helping in both sectors.
  • We will look at whether and how health and social care employers deliberately plan the spread and management of apprenticeships across their workforces, the challenges they face, and how they aim to overcome them.
  • We will look at the personal characteristics of apprentices, their ambitions and experiences of the apprenticeship programme.
  • We will look at the NHS Trusts using apprenticeships, and whether the aims of the organisation are being met, as well as those of the people involved and those of the services offered.


  • We will hold a Roundtable with key informants to discuss existing information on the number of apprenticeships taken-up and those completed in both sectors.
  • We will look at patterns of apprenticeships in different regions, types of employer and apprenticeship standards, supported by data from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS).
  • We will survey leaders of apprenticeship programmes in both sectors to understand their planning and approach to apprenticeships.
  • We will look at case studies, talking to health and social care employers, looking at their organisation’s approach and at the involvement and experiences of all stakeholders, including apprentices themselves.

These case studies will focus on apprenticeships unique to each sector - for example in social care, the social worker apprenticeship and in health care, the medical degree apprenticeship. They will also cover those apprenticeships that cut across both health and social care, for example for Nurses, and various Allied Health Professions.


March 2024 – March 2026


NIHR Policy Research Programme: NIHR206121(01)

Policy relevance

Apprenticeships are seen as a realistic training model for a very varied group of people from different social and economic backgrounds. This is important for contributing to the development of an inclusive workforce.

Apprenticeships from Level 2 to Degree Level, can form the basis for improved career pathways. They are seen not only as helping to attract people into employment in health and social care but also for retaining the workforce. Using apprenticeships to progress into various registered professional roles also provides both sectors with a ‘grow-your-own’ approach to address ongoing staff shortages, in certain occupations in health and social care.

This study will look at whether and how these aims can be met. If they are met, we will look at whether there is scope to explore and share ‘good’ practice on their achievement. When challenges are faced, we will examine how they have been addressed.

The findings will be relevant to senior organisational managers with a responsibility for training and staff development, regional and other managers who often provide practical support for apprenticeship programmes, and higher education institutes providing apprenticeship programmes, as well as employee’s representative bodies services.


The main output from this study will be a report of findings. All participants will receive a copy of the summary and recommendations. The full report will be published online on the Unit’s website. With an interest in apprenticeships, we will ensure that the report is sent to and discussed with the Department for Education. We will also prepare further outputs, working with local partners (including Applied Research Collaboration South London and Making Research Count) and national stakeholders with a view to spreading the word to managers and others with training responsibilities. This will include the convening of workshops and webinars for apprenticeship leads in health and social care providers, to reflect on the findings. We will present findings at academic conferences and publish at least one article in a peer reviewed journal.

Project status: Ongoing