Maternity Apprenticeships take shape

By Gabrielle Bourke on 06 July 2018 Apprenticeships Career

A few months ago the RCM published data about applications to study midwifery in England. We found that over the last five years, the number of people applying to become midwives fell by 35%. We’ve seen the supply of midwives from the EU dry up as Brexit creates huge uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the government’s new Apprenticeship system has seen millions levied from NHS Trusts – and all other large organisations – in order to encourage employers to grow their workforce through the thousands of new Apprenticeships created since 2016. One of these – The Maternity Support Worker – has been up and running for a while now, and we published a guide about early this year which you can download from our Publications section. The very first Nursing Apprentices are in training, and all over the NHS, from arts therapy to business management, landscaping and construction, Apprenticeships are growing.

So where is midwifery in all of this? The concept of a Midwifery Apprenticeship has been kicking around for well over a year, with seemingly little sign of progress. However, in the last week midwifery leaders, educationalists, representatives from Skills for Health (SfH) and Health Education England (HEE) and the RCM have come together to begin the work of creating a Midwifery Apprenticeship Trailblazer. (A ‘Trailblazer’ is the name for the group of Employers and others who work on creating an Apprenticeship Standard).

There are a number of reasons why creating a Midwifery Apprenticeship has proved to be so tricky and time consuming. Firstly, the introduction of new Standards for Midwifery Education in 2020 – Mary Renfrew is undertaking this work for the NMC – will make any Apprenticeship created now redundant once the NMC’s work is complete. We’d have to create another Apprenticeship again.

Secondly, midwifery can’t be APEL-ed – meaning work on a different course can’t count towards midwifery study - and there are strict rules on the hours students must complete to gain qualification. This means we can’t be as flexible in creating an Apprenticeship as other careers can be.

The first meeting of the Trailblazer tussled over these issues and more: Nursing apprenticeships haven't taken off, so are we sure the pool of potential midwifery apprenticeships is out there? How can we make sure universities can design courses, have them approved, and get the first Apprentices started, before the new NMC Standards come online, and we have to do it all over again? Across the NHS, the funding for backfilling Apprentices has been a real sticking point. Can midwifery overcome this when others haven’t?

But the clock is ticking. With midwifery students facing fees of £9000 there is an urgent need to consider new routes into the profession. Despite the challenges involved in getting a Midwifery Apprenticeship up and running, there is a growing consensus amongst clinicians, educators and arms length bodies that the time has come to act.”

The Trailblazer’s first piece of work is now out for consultation. Take a look at the draft Midwifery Apprentice Standard, which, like all other Apprenticeships across the economy, outlines the skills, knowledge and behaviours of the occupation. Skills for Health would like your comments by Wednesday 1 August, 2018.

If all goes to plan, the first Midwifery Apprentices will start in England in 2019… Watch this space!

By Gabrielle Bourke, Policy Advisor

6 July 2018