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Apprenticeship manager Karen Hookham talks about her role leading the efforts to provide high-quality opportunities with the Trust for apprentices

Wednesday, 18 August, 2021
Apprenticeship manager Karen Hookham talks about her role leading the efforts to provide high-quality opportunities with the Trust for apprentices

As an organisation, Northumbria Healthcare is extremely proactive in using apprenticeships to develop and progress staff and as a key part of our workforce planning.

We currently deliver six programmes in-house, such as healthcare support worker, customer service practitioner and team leader, while supporting a further 25 apprenticeship standards, covering everything from accountancy to carpentry, electrical engineering to nursing and pharmacy.

My role involves the planning, development, delivery and improvement of the organisation’s apprenticeship programmes both internally and externally.

To deliver the external programmes, I work closely with the specialist leads, our talent for care manager, procurement and training providers to ensure we are meeting our workforce development goals as well as getting the best outcome for all of our business units and supporting the delivery of excellent patient care.

We ensure colleagues are supported and understand the expectations of the programme and that they are fully aware of what is required. I work with business units/department managers to establish that the applicants meet the entry requirements for higher degree apprenticeships with our partnered universities. If there is a requirement for backfill while the apprentice is attending their apprenticeship programme, I support managers to complete and to consider the funds they may need.

Our apprenticeship numbers are growing year on year. Since the levy began in 2017 through to the end of June 2021, we have had 739 people start apprenticeships at the Trust across 30 different standards. We have had a number of successful completions, with numbers increasing.

During that period, more than 80% of our level 2 apprentices have successfully completed their placements and gained employment within the Trust, which is fantastic. We are delighted in now seeing these apprentices progressing onto level 3 apprenticeship programme opportunities and into higher job roles.

Covid did have an impact, as it will have done with all other organisations, but we managed to keep the majority of our apprentices on programmes, which has been down to the support from my dedicated team.

Keeping the programmes running over the last 18 months was challenging though, as half of our team were redeployed for around six months to support front-line clinical roles.

At the other end of the spectrum, the very best part of the job is seeing the numbers of those registering onto a variety of programmes increase. It is also very rewarding seeing the range of programmes that we offer increasing. I love to see people achieve and to progress in their career.

I have personally seen this with learners that I have supported from level 2 through to level 3 into successful careers, an example of this is one of the healthcare apprentices who is now a ward manager. To see these colleagues develop into management roles is hugely rewarding.

Collaborating with the various business units and departments to highlight the success of apprenticeships and how they can support their workforce is also something I very much enjoy.

While there has been an ongoing focus on apprenticeships, it is reassuring that the Trust’s commitment has been reaffirmed through the recent launch of Our Community Promise, which has employment, education and economy among its six key pillars.

For more information on Northumbria Healthcare’s apprenticeship programme, visit