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MPs and Peers hear from The Open University about success of nursing apprenticeships

Phil Kenmore at the APPG

The Open University’s Phil Kenmore, Head of Health and Social Care (Business Development) was recently invited to address the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Apprenticeships in Westminster.

The APPG on Apprenticeships is a cross-party group of MPs and Peers which provides a forum for parliamentarians and employers to discuss how to promote the role of high-quality apprenticeships. The Group works to ensure that apprenticeships serve as a pathway to a career and how the apprenticeship model can meet the changing skill demands from employers. The Group invites top apprenticeship experts, recent Ministers for Skills, top civil servants, business groups and apprentices themselves to speak at meetings. It is co-chaired by Catherine McKinnell MP and Gillian Keegan MP.

Phil Kenmore works alongside colleagues in The Open University (OU) to understand the workforce needs and challenges of health and social care employers. In his address to Peers, MPs and panellists, Phil talked about the OU’s long heritage and strong pedigree of providing work-based learning, delivered in partnership with employers.

Phil with the Breaking Barriers report at APPGThe focus of his address was the OU’s success in delivering nurse education in England. The OU has been delivering training since 2002 in partnership with employers and 1,700 nurses across all four nations of the UK have qualified through the University.

The OU is currently working in with over 180 employers and over 1,450 student and apprentice nurse are on programme. Focusing particularly on apprenticeships, Phil explained that the OU has over 330 apprentice nurses and nursing associates currently on programme and that number is set to rapidly increase in the near future.

The OU’s blended approach to delivering the training has paid dividends with retention rate of over 91% (versus an average attrition rate of 24% on other HEI nursing programmes)*. The learning model combines highly supported academic distance learning with practical skills learnt locally in the workplace in partnership with employers.

NHS Trusts, such as the Isle of Wight are finding the OU’s model the perfect fit as the distance-learning element helps keeps skills local on the island. Through apprenticeships, nurses are able to stay in their local area and continue working. This helps them balance study with commitments such as family life and reduces the need for travel.

Phil explained to the Group that apprenticeships provide opportunities those without prior educational opportunities. We adhere to all Nursing & Midwifery Council requirements, undertake robust selection but do not insist on A Levels (in England). This helps the NHS to widen participation in nursing and facilitate a “grow-your-own” approach.

The results are making a real difference to the NHS with Trusts such as Northampton NHS Foundation Trust, who are upskilling support workers to train towards becoming a nurse. Quality is paramount and the OU is in the top 6% of Nursing and Midwifery Council-approved nursing education providers.

Phil ended his address by calling for the UK Government to consider changes in levy rules to allow NHS organisations to use the levy to backfill positions – which is biggest barrier to apprenticeships take-up.

The success stories provide a template of how the UK Government can start to address the nursing shortage in England. The University’s recent report – Breaking Barriers to Nursing – called on higher education institutions and NHS employers to address barriers to the nursing profession and made a number of recommendations on how these barriers can be overcome.

Analysis included in the report suggests that if key stakeholders focus on removing the barriers faced by prospective students and ensure that all places to study nursing are filled each year, an additional 10,100 nurses could be fully qualified in 10 years’ time, with a further 4,340 additional students still studying. This would fill 13 per cent of the forecasted nursing deficit.

If you would like to find out about OU nursing apprenticeships, you can watch Phil’s recent webinar on our website. Phil was joined by Evelyn Mooney, Lecturer in Nursing, School of Health Wellbeing and Social Care. Phil and Evelyn explained more about OU nursing degrees and apprenticeships in all four nations and answered questions from the participants.

Watch webinar


*The Health Foundation, A critical moment: NHS staffing trends, retention and attrition, 2019.