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NATIONAL APPRENTICESHIP WEEK 2022: Year-on-year growth for Sunderland’s apprenticeship programmes

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Published on 07 February 2022

National Apprenticeship Week, University of Sunderland
National Apprenticeship Week, University of Sunderland

A record number of employers across the country have now signed up to the University of Sunderland’s Higher and Degree Apprenticeship Programmes working in partnership to develop a highly-skilled workforce thriving into the future.

Since launching seven years ago with just a handful of employers, the University scheme has grown year on year. Now partnering with more than 100 organisations, the University is currently educating and training more than 340 apprentices who have signed up this academic year in 15 degree-level apprenticeship programmes, across a range of sectors and job roles.

Apprenticeships are job-role specific and involve a range of work-based projects which allow learning to be applied directly into business.

Despite the impact of the pandemic over the last two years, our apprentices have continued making major contributions to the success of workplaces in areas such as health, technology, engineering, education and business leadership, helping employers adapt and grow.

To celebrate this achievement - as part of the 15th annual National Apprenticeship Week 2022 (7-11 February) - the University is shining a light on the inspirational work of our apprentices, partners and staff, all this week.

Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University, said: “Providing high-quality apprenticeships is a vital part of our role as an anchor institution in the north east of England. We are delighted that our programmes have grown across the region and nationally, and we continue to work in partnership with so many different employers to provide them with the skilled people they need to thrive in the future.

“For the individuals involved, an apprenticeship is a terrific way to enhance their career prospects and job opportunities.”

One of the most recent employers to partner with the University is leading private healthcare provider, Spire Healthcare, launching a new nurse degree apprenticeship programme, with roles available across the company’s 35 English hospitals.

This apprenticeship is a work-based qualification providing apprentices with a combination of training and assessments via distancing learning and on-site placements applying practical knowledge. Placements are delivered at a Spire hospital as well as at the local NHS trust and GP practice. Apprentices complete the programme with a BSc degree.

Alys Reeves, Spire Healthcare Apprenticeship Manager, said: “At Spire Healthcare we are developing our colleagues – improving skills, professional development and creating career pathways through apprenticeships to ensure that we have the right people, in the right place, with the right skills for Spire both now and to meet the needs of an Independent Healthcare provider of the future.

“Our partnership with University of Sunderland has meant that the apprentices are receiving first-class academic learning combined with real hands-on experience within our hospitals. Their enthusiasm and appetite for learning is a joy to witness and it is a pleasure to watch them grow on their journey to become Spire Healthcare Nurses of the future.”

Apprenticeships are levy-funded if an organisation is a levy payer or, for smaller businesses, the Government contributes 95% towards the tuition fees. It’s an opportunity for employers to attract talent to their business, train staff and see a return on investment. Apprenticeships offered at Sunderland include the MBA Senior Leader, Learning and Skills Teacher, BEng Engineering Practice, BSc Digital and Technology Professional, MSc Digital and Technology Solutions Specialist, Digital Community Manager, BA Social Worker, MSc Advanced Clinical Practitioner, District Nurse, BSc Nurse, BSc Public Health Practitioner and BSc Healthcare Science.

Hazel Rounthwaite, Head of Work-Based Learning at the University of Sunderland said: "We put employer engagement at the forefront of what we do. All our apprenticeships are developed in collaboration with a wide range of employers to ensure they are meeting skills gaps, business needs and guaranteeing currency. “Apprenticeships are a fantastic vehicle for enabling employers to access a wider talent pool in addition to providing skills development for existing employees. It is ideal as funding is available to cover tuition fees and an apprentice employee can earn whilst they learn."


Tony Ikwe, Director of Enterprise and Innovation at the University of Sunderland, added: “Our Higher and Degree Apprenticeship provision has gone from strength to strength. We now offer 15 apprenticeship programmes across a wide range of sectors with more in development. Our close engagement with employers has helped them extend apprentice opportunities and build the knowledge and skills essential to business growth in the region.” This is the 15th annual National Apprenticeship Week, a week-long celebration that takes place across England, showcasing the impact apprenticeships can have on communities, local businesses and regional economies and how they all benefit from the impact of apprenticeships.

To find out more about Higher and Degree Apprenticeship at the University of Sunderland click here.

Case study: Shuqrah Muheeb - Nurse Degree Apprenticeship Programme

Shuqrah Muheeb is one of 150 nurses, currently undertaking the Nurse Degree Apprenticeship Programme - a partnership between Spire HealthCare and the University of Sunderland.

Shuqrah’s own journey into motherhood was the inspiration to become a nurse.

Previously working in administration for an engineering company, then as a business analyst, it was after the traumatic premature birth of daughter at 30 weeks, and the care both mum and baby received through the NHS, that her mind was made up.

The 41-year-old explains: “Although my grandmother had always encouraged me before she passed to do nursing, I finally decided to pursue this career path due to premature childbirth.

“A few years ago, I fell into labour early and my baby was born very early with a 50/50 chance of survival. Luckily, she survived. The quality of care we both received was top notch, that I felt indebted to give back to the industry.”

The 41-year-old, from the West Midlands, began work with Spire South Bank Hospital in Worcester, as a Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship.

Shuqrah says she chose an apprenticeship programme because it was so practical: “I am a hands-on person and this route suits me best.

“It’s interesting as I have the opportunity to learn from teams of experts who are not only brilliant at what they do but also happy to impact their knowledge to the upcoming professionals. Above all, it is debt free as I don’t have to get a loan to pay my tuition nor am I going to pay back my school fees. I am being paid while I study and learn.”

As one of the first set of apprentices to be based at the hospital, it took a while to adjust, however, she says she’s now settled in and work is getting better.

She added: “I want to make ultimate use of all the skills and knowledge I am learning by putting them into practice, so as to give back a high-quality service delivery.”

Asked about her plans for the future, Shuqrah says: “I plan to be an exemplary and professional nurse in my chosen area of specialisation. To also pursue a higher qualification and undergo the necessary training that is relevant to my chosen career pathway.”

Shuqrah says an apprenticeship is a great way to become professionally qualified.

“It’s a hands-on learning pathway, which reduces the financial burden,” she says. “You will always have experienced and qualified tutors/lecturers, mentors, assessors etc, to learn from or to mentor you.”

She also advises: “If you begin an apprenticeship don’t be frustrated with the challenges that may come your way during your journey, remember, no career is stress free. “However, with hard work, determination, selflessness, patience and resilience you will achieve success.”