A St Just care home manager has credited degree apprenticeships with helping him to develop his own workforce of health care experts.

John Clemens, a registered nurse who owns Benoni Care Home, currently has five employees developing their skills through degree apprenticeships at the University of Plymouth.

From a recently qualified nurse who grew from a shy assistant practitioner, to a secretary whose clinical skills saw her successfully change path and become a student nurse, John says he is able to develop his team, futureproof his organisation and ensure high quality resident care simultaneously.    

Degree apprenticeships enable employees to study for a degree in a field related to their job while maintaining their employment. Depending on the size of the business, the cost of study is either partly funded by the government or met through an apprenticeship levy.

Employees study a core set of modules with flexible elements that businesses can choose to meet their ongoing requirements, ensuring they can work and study effectively.

In John’s case, apprentices learn from each other too, and they are encouraged to stay at Benoni for a preceptorship year after they have qualified.

The University of Plymouth has the largest range of healthcare courses in the South West, with nursing offered as degree apprenticeship at its campuses in Truro, Plymouth and Exeter.

John said: “Nurses are so important but finding and retaining them is a challenge across healthcare. So, when you’ve got incredible staff who, with the right support, could become nurses, it makes total sense to empower and train them to do so.

“We have 24 beds here and don’t have to use any agency staff as we’re developing and utilising our own highly skilled workforce.

“The employees currently studying come from different backgrounds too – some have the patient care experience and needed the academic boost, whereas others have clerical or scientific expertise but need care experience. Either way, the degree apprenticeship with the University of Plymouth is enabling us all to achieve our best – not least with a view to providing the best care possible for residents.

“I’m growing a new generation of nurses, but in a sustainable way that’s right for us all.”

Marta Kusinska, a second-year Registered Nurse Degree Apprentice student nurse, said: “This pathway has enabled me to start my journey on a career which I did not previously think was a viable option for me. I have been able to gain experience and skills in several clinical environments which I can then apply to my practice at work. This programme, with the support of my Benoni colleagues has allowed me to develop confidence in leading a team to deliver the best possible care for our residents.”

Sarah Morrow, a first-year Registered Nurse Degree Apprentice student nurse, said: “I am happy to be undertaking my training via the apprenticeship route, John has encouraged my development since I joined the company over a year ago and together, we have spoken about the different options available. I am pleased with my decision, working with my colleagues at Benoni allows me to benefit from their range of experiences whilst they support my development. I am learning clinical skills at university which I am then able to practise under the guidance of my mentors at work. So far I am enjoying it, and I’m looking forward to finding out where my next placement will be.”

Tristan Coombe, Academic Site Lead at the University of Plymouth’s Truro School of Nursing, said: “The University of Plymouth understands some of the challenges in developing and retaining highly skilled employees.  We are excited to be offering the Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship leading to registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council across our three sites in Plymouth, Truro and Exeter. We very much value the partnership we have with Benoni Care Home and are keen to explore how we can support other employers locally, across the private, voluntary and independent sector.” 

Wendy Burt, registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship Programme Lead, said: “The Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship Programme with the University of Plymouth widens participation giving an alternative route to study and become a Registered Nurse across three possible fields of Nursing, Adult, Child and Mental Health without the need to become a full-time traditional student utilising student finance.

“The benefit to employers, to be able to support and develop their already dedicated workforce and invest in their progression is multi-faceted and as the apprenticeship is fully integrated into the University of Plymouth BSc programme, the apprentices have the benefit of learning with a diverse student body with various levels of confidence and competence enriching their experience.”

Caroline Jamison Academic Lead for Apprenticeship said: “We are delighted to be working collaboratively with John and other employers in the SW to grow a sustainable workforce that meets the needs of our local population and the ambitions outlined in the NHS Long term workforce Plan.”

Find out more about degree apprenticeships on the University of Plymouth website https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/business-partners/work-based-apprenticeships