Apprenticeships: don’t miss out

The advanced clinical practitioner (ACP) apprenticeship offers an exciting new way to develop a physio career, says Sally Gosling.


The Story so far: 

Apprenticeship developments relevant to the physiotherapy workforce have developed at pace over the last year, particularly in England.  The advanced clinical practitioner (ACP) apprenticeship covered in this article is now available for delivery. This is underpinned by an MSc in advanced clinical practice and provides a fresh opportunity for experienced clinicians to be supported to develop into advanced practice roles. 

Other apprenticeships relevant to physiotherapy are available or in development:

  • evel 3 support worker and a level 5 assistant practitioner apprenticeship are both available
  • A master’s level academic professional apprenticeship has just been approved. Through this, universities can develop physiotherapy educators and researchers
  • The physiotherapist degree apprenticeship (leading to a BSc(Hons) in physiotherapy) is going through the final stages of approval. It should be ready for delivery from early in 2019. 

What is an advanced clinical practitioner apprenticeship?

The advanced clinical practitioner (ACP) apprenticeship offers a new route to an advanced practitioner role. It gives experienced clinicians the opportunity to develop into an advanced practice role, funded by their employer, and to study for an MSc in advanced clinical practice on a part-time basis, while practising and contributing to patient care and service delivery. The apprenticeship is open to all registered non-medical health and care professionals.  
In line with all new apprenticeships, the ACP has an apprenticeship standard. This standard defines an ACP as an occupational role. It sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to fulfil it. The ACP assessment plan sets out how apprentices need to be assessed at the end of their programme of learning to complete it successfully.  

What is in it for me?

It will enable you to undertake a structured and supported work-based learning programme that leads to a master’s degree and progress into an ACP role. It gives access to employer-funded professional development opportunities that fit with service needs. 

How is the apprenticeship useful to employers?

Developing workforce capacity at advanced practice level is a key element of delivering services differently and more effectively. This includes responding to rising demand and changing population and patient needs. Through the apprenticeship levy and the ACP apprenticeship, employers now have the opportunity to invest in developing advanced practice skills in physiotherapy and other professions to realise the full potential of their workforce.  

How has the CSP been involved in its development? 

The CSP has been involved at each key stage, responding to every public consultation. We responded to the initial proposal to develop an ACP apprenticeship and commented on how the standard defines the apprenticeship and how apprentices’ learning will be assessed at the end. We also encouraged members to provide feedback at each consultation stage. 
In addition, we led activity across AHP member organisations. This was to ensure the ACP apprenticeship is relevant to the development of advanced practice roles for all the health and care professions, working in all sectors, services and settings. It should therefore be responsive to, and inclusive of, the way job roles are changing. 
The CSP is now supporting universities to develop their ACP master’s provision and is preparing guidance for members.  

Why was this important? 

We have tried to ensure that the ACP apprenticeship provides a new route that CSP members can use to gain support for their role development and career progression. 
It should also enable employers to spend their apprenticeship levy on developing their workforce at an advanced clinical practice level. They should also be able to develop their knowledge and skills capacity in areas of strong workforce need. For example, the ACP apprenticeship can help to increase physiotherapy workforce capacity for first-contact practitioner roles in general practice.  

When and where will this start?

The ACP apprenticeship was fully approved for delivery by the Institute for Apprenticeships in April. Universities are now reviewing how they can develop their MSc ACP provision to deliver it as an apprenticeship. In turn, they are looking at how they can best respond to employer demand to use the apprenticeship to meet their workforce development needs. 
We expect some employers and universities to offer it from September 2018. 

Shouldn’t the profession wait to see how the apprenticeship works before getting involved? 

  • No, it is important that physiotherapy engages with emerging opportunities to ensure that the profession’s workforce development needs are met through the ACP apprenticeship.  
  • It’s true that apprenticeships present some unknowns and challenges (in healthcare, higher education and at master’s degree level). However they present a new way for employers to invest in skills development. If physiotherapists don’t seek to use the ACP apprenticeship, others will. Employers will use their apprenticeship levy for different parts of the workforce.    

I’m interested. What should I do? 

  • If you’re a manager wanting to develop your workforce through the apprenticeship, contact your workforce development lead and find out how your plans can be supported through wider apprenticeship activity
  • If you’re a clinician wanting to access the apprenticeship development opportunity, find out whether your employer is planning to offer it and what the application process will be
  • If you’re an educator wanting to ensure that your university’s ACP MSc degree provision is responsive to physiotherapy workforce needs, liaise with colleagues to find out whether and how plans have progressed to deliver the ACP apprenticeship. 
Sally Gosling is a CSP assistant director

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Sally Gosling, CSP assistant director

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