Mar 21

Embracing apprenticeships

Posted: 29 March 2021

With life set to return to some level of normality over the coming months, we believe that now is the right time to consider using apprenticeships to boost the skills of your workforce.

Apprenticeships provide excellent opportunities for those wishing to enter the care sector, or for those wanting to expand their skillset and take advantage of further training and development. Despite this, we know that many employers still feel uncertain about whether apprenticeships are right for their workforce.

Housing 21, a levy-paying organisation, is a leading not-for-profit provider of Retirement Housing and Extra Care for older people of modest means. Operating in nearly 200 local authority areas, the organisation manages around 20,000 Retirement and Extra Care Living properties throughout the country, it also provides over 42,000 hours of social care each week, employing 3,500 staff.

In February 2020, we spoke to Jenny Docherty, Learning and Development Partner - Funding at Housing 21. Jenny told us how the organisation had 180 staff working towards an apprenticeship, with plans to recruit more in the foreseeable future. Take a look at our previous interview with Jenny.

We caught up with her again to find out how things are going, and to find out how this has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the introduction of the levy, Housing 21 had already been using a wide range of apprenticeship standards to support care roles and non-care roles across the organisation. These include Care levels 2 – 5 (Adult Care Worker, Lead Adult Care Worker, Lead Practitioner in Adult Care, Leader in Adult Care), Chartered Manager level 6, and Housing levels 2 – 4.

However, the levy provided further opportunities to support the development of existing staff with new apprenticeships. This allowed them to gain experience in several different subject areas, while continuing to develop their existing skills and knowledge.

As well as gaining access to the Workforce Development Fund (WDF), Housing 21 has taken advantage of government incentives to help them invest further in apprenticeships.

Since the end of 2019, Housing 21 has recruited 10 new apprentices, five of whom began during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a very unusual start for these apprentices. Joining the organisation without meeting their team in person was tough, but they all got to know each other through regular online catch-ups with their teams.

Despite the uncertainty of the last 12 months, the apprenticeship programme at Housing 21 continued, with most training providers switching to online learning. This meant that most appointments, workshops, remote observations and end-point assessments could continue as normal. Although some functional skills exams were delayed, learners are now able to complete exams at home with a remote invigilator.

Going forward, Housing 21 will continue to offer apprenticeships to support the development of their existing staff. They’ll also be introducing the new Coaching Professional level 5 apprenticeship standards, while looking into how the management apprenticeships will complement their leadership pathway.

The pandemic has not slowed the organisation down either; Housing 21 would like to embrace further apprenticeship opportunities.

We’d like to say thanks to Jenny for giving us an insight into the last 12 months at Housing 21. Here are some final words from her.

“We’ve been able to offer some fantastic apprentice opportunities, enabling people to develop their career with us. We’ve been fortunate that even through the pandemic, the recruitment of some apprentice vacancies has still gone ahead. 

The main challenges we faced were ensuring staff had access to remote learning for their apprenticeship qualifications, the end-point assessments moving to a remote set up and functional skills exams. It’s testament to the staff members’ commitment, the support from their managers and the training providers we work with that we’ve been able to adapt and enable staff to complete as planned, resulting in excellent grades.”

Discover apprenticeships

It’s exciting to see how Housing 21 has employed new apprentices despite the challenges of the pandemic. With a variety of apprenticeships available in adult social care, and non-care roles, it’s a great time to consider if apprenticeships can support both your recruitment and development needs within your organisation.

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