A higher education diploma is allowing adults back into the classroom to fulfil their career ambitions
Further education colleges make a huge contribution to their communities and the local economy, because of their expertise delivering vocational training to adults, young people and regional employers.
At the Sheffield College in South Yorkshire we are developing the future nursing talent needed both here in the city and across the UK. During the last year, the college has strengthened its relationships with local NHS trusts, private sector care providers and hospices to support the future health and social care skill needs of the Sheffield region.
Our employer partners work closely with our health and social care department so that our curriculum reacts to local and regional skills needs. For example, the college is a delivery partner with the Health Education England sponsored assistant practitioner programme, and from 2018 will incorporate the new nursing associate role to support health and social care employers with a range of apprenticeships (see p24).
At the start of this academic year, the college launched the access to nursing (health professions) higher education diploma for adults with some experience of the sector who want to progress to nursing degree courses. The diploma is also suitable for those completing a work placement who want to go straight in to employment.
Skills shortages have been cited in previous national reports as the biggest hardship in recruiting for the NHS. A significant proportion of hard-to-fill vacancies are for nursing. The healthcare system of the future will require graduate nurses to practise and lead teams in a variety of roles in many settings, including primary care.
Employers advised us that health skills at level 3 were in short supply, exacerbated by a drop in the 16 to 19-year-old population, so we decided to look for suitable mature students who were considering careers in nursing, midwifery and the allied health professions.
The access course was launched to deliver a rapid increase in the number of skilled local people who could be accepted on nursing degrees at local universities. Designed in partnership with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the one-year intensive qualification represents a step forward. Access courses provide a great opportunity for adult learners to return to the classroom and fulfill their career ambitions. They enable students without traditional qualifications, such as A levels, to get into university. Some students may also be eligible to apply for a 19+ advanced learner loan.
NHS professionals teach on the programme. Students spend one evening a week at college and the rest of the time in practical learning in the workplace. Course assessment is ongoing and includes a portfolio and competency assessments including exams, presentations and project work. On successful completion, students have the opportunity to continue their studies with us on the professional practice in health and social foundation degree for two years. That course leads into the second year of university degrees in nursing, subject to UCAS requirements and an interview.
The Five-Year Forward View acknowledges that people are living longer, and with more long-term conditions. In future, the traditional divide between primary care, community services and hospitals may be less marked and healthcare organisations will be using new technologies to improve the quality of care and patient experience. This new initiative is a strong example of how we can work together to deliver courses that address essential skills requirements.