Almost 300 extra nurses are to undergo apprenticeship training at Brighton University, with the initial intake starting this week.
The university has won a £4.2 million contract to provide higher apprenticeships for the new role of “nursing associate”.
The university said: “Nursing associates will bridge a gap between nursing assistants and registered nurses to deliver additional hands-on care.
“The contract, from a consortium of healthcare providers in Sussex and Surrey, will provide for around 90 apprenticeships with consortium members during 2018, and up to around 280 over the life of the contract which runs until March 2021.
“The first nursing associates started their apprenticeships this week at the university’s School of Health Sciences and will spend around 40 per cent of their working time attending taught sessions or on placement.”
Paula Kersten, head of the School of Health Sciences, said: “I’m delighted that we are playing a central role in developing apprenticeships with our partners in the NHS.
“They enable us to offer different pathways to suit learners’ needs and a highly responsive solution for employers.”
Professor Kersten added: “Colleagues in the school have developed the new nursing associate apprenticeship in close collaboration with employers.
“These apprentices will study alongside our established apprenticeship programme for assistant practitioners and fill an important gap in the local workforce.”
The consortium includes Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital, the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital and the Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton.
At its most recent board meeting, the trust reported that it had the equivalent of 343 full-time nursing vacancies at the end of December. The trust made use of bank staff – nurses working extra hours to cover other shifts – and more expensive agency staff.
The hospital trust is one of many NHS employers with unfilled vacancies, particularly for skilled clinical staff.
The consortium also includes Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, First Community Health and Care, Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, St Catherine’s Hospice and East Surrey Clinical Commissioning Group.
Brighton University plans to launch further apprenticeships this year including degree apprenticeships in healthcare science, occupational therapy and podiatry and a masters-level apprenticeship in advanced clinical practice.
Stephen Denyer, the university’s pro-vice-chancellor for education and student experience, said: “We are working with employers in many more sectors to develop our range of apprenticeships and we welcome conversations to explore new possibilities.”
The university is also responding to calls from the construction industry for degree apprenticeships to be developed to meet the growing skills gaps facing the sector.
The university will be offering an honours degree as part of the degree apprenticeship in construction site management as soon as the associated “national apprenticeship standard” is approved. Approval is expected later this year. A masters-level apprenticeship in chartered town planning is also being developed.
Viki Faulkner, head of apprenticeships at the university, said: “The university is also developing a range of masters-level degree provision for professionals including degree apprenticeships in teaching and senior leadership.”