General

Will the apprenticeship be UK wide? What about Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

At present the SLT apprenticeship is only being made available in England, because the Westminster  Government has decided to allow apprentice funding to be used for healthcare pre-registration  degree courses. The Governments in the devolved nations are taking a different view and approach  to how they use apprenticeship funding. It is different in each devolved nation, but those  Governments support the traditional degrees by providing funding and/or commissioning them  directly.

Applying

How do I become an SLT apprentice?

When the apprenticeship is available you will be able to apply for an apprenticeship with an employer who is offering them. At present, it is still too early to know which employers will be offering them.  

When will I be able to apply for an SLT apprenticeship?

Currently, Essex University is the only HEI planning to deliver an SLT apprenticeship from Autumn  2022. There are no confirmed plans for any other HEIs to deliver an SLT apprenticeship at this stage,  though other universities have also expressed an interest in developing the apprenticeship, and discussions between employers and universities have taken place across many regions. Inevitably,  the impact of Covid-19 has been to delay consideration of new projects while they are faced with dealing with issues arising from the pandemic. 

We hope that in time more universities and employers can work together to offer the apprenticeship. 

What will the entry requirements be?

It will be up to the employer and university offering the apprenticeship to decide, but we would not expect them to be significantly different to current entry requirements. 

Will the apprenticeship be open to existing employees/ SLT assistants?

Yes, it is possible for employers to offer apprenticeships to existing employees, subject to the entry and other requirements that they set.

I already have a degree; will I be able to do an apprenticeship?

An employer has to assess and quantify what relevant prior learning an apprentice has at the start of the apprenticeship. A prior degree will not in the great majority of cases prove an obstacle to starting an SLT apprenticeship given the unique nature of the SLT profession. In addition, if you have a relevant degree it may be possible to do the apprenticeship at masters level in a shorter time than the expected four years. 

What is a relevant degree?

An employer and university will need to assess and quantify what criteria they wish to set for applicants to the SLT apprenticeship via the undergraduate route and via the masters route. This may be variable and be considered holistically with the level of work experience as well for example. 

Will mature students be considered?

It will be up to employers to decide who to employ, but there are no age restrictions from an RCSLT  viewpoint. Government funding of the academic learning for apprentices is available for anyone over the age of 16.

The degree/structure

Will I get a degree at the end?

Yes.  

How long will it take?

We anticipate that the apprenticeship will be approximately 4 years long. It may be shorter if the apprentice already has a relevant degree and is able to undertake a masters level qualification as part of the apprenticeship. 

Will there be a shorter version of the apprenticeship for those with a relevant degree? An employer has to assess and quantify what relevant prior learning an apprentice has at the start of the apprenticeship. In addition, if you have a relevant degree it may be possible to do the apprenticeship at master’s level in a shorter time than the expected four years. It is up to individual universities to decide whether further flexibility due to prior learning is possible. 

If there is a master’s apprenticeship available is it likely to be able to be completed in 2 years? In the same way that the masters qualification, via the traditional route, is usually shorter than the undergraduate route, we would also expect the masters apprenticeship to be shorter than an undergraduate one, assuming they are following the same model of delivery. This is open to negotiation between universities and employers.  

The standard has been developed with the RCSLT curriculum guidelines at their core. It is also mapped to HCPC standards. Universities and employers will need to develop apprenticeship programmes that meet the usual processes for HCPC approval and RCSLT accreditation. Apprentices that are successful in passing both their degree and the apprenticeship End Point Assessment will be eligible to apply for HCPC registration and RCSLT membership. 

Will an apprenticeship give me the same qualification as going to university to do a speech and language therapy degree?

Yes. As part of the apprenticeship, you will undertake either an undergraduate or masters pre-registration degree. 

Have universities been given the option to provide ‘university time’ virtually or remotely? It is possible to consider different styles of learning, such as face to face, blended or virtual. This is open to negotiation between universities and employers and subject to RCSLT accreditation. 

Would I continue my existing SLTA responsibilities?

An employer would need to offer and provide a specific SLT apprenticeship agreement that meets  Government requirements. An employer can decide at what band and pay to offer, but it must provide for a minimum of at least 20% of an apprentice’s time to be dedicated to off the job learning – there are rules that specify what this can cover. If the apprentice spends 20% of their working week in academic learning, then it would take around 4 years for an apprentice to complete the undergraduate pre-registration curriculum. Please note that this assumes a normal working year, not a traditional university academic year. If the apprentice spent more of their working week on academic learning potentially this time could be shortened, for example some physiotherapy apprenticeships have a shorter model where more time is spent at university. In practice the university and employer will need to agree what percentage this will be. The apprenticeship will need to provide for appropriate duties for an SLT apprentice and also recognise the time required in other settings for placements and study time. So, while some SLTA duties may continue as an apprentice it will also be different to any existing SLTA role that you may already be in. 

Will the apprenticeship be available as a part-time option?

It is not possible to say at present, but if it were to be then it would take considerably longer than 4  years to complete. 

Can I complete the apprenticeship while working in an integrated therapy assistant role or while working across two Trusts?

An apprenticeship SLT role would require your employer to offer a new agreement as an SLT  apprentice. The duties would need to be appropriate to that role. It would not be a continuation of an existing role. If you currently have two employers there would potentially need to be agreement over one that would employ you as a SLT apprentice and how they would share that responsibility and if this could be made to work.

Placements

How would placements in other clinical areas be possible e.g., working in paediatrics but having an adult placement?

Apprentices will need to achieve 150 sessions of practice-based learning before presenting for their  End Point Assessment. The requirement to undertake placement hours in both adult and paediatric settings is the same for apprenticeships as for undergraduate and masters training courses. The apprentice’s employer and university should work together to ensure that these requirements are met.

What format would the placements take?

How many blocks, length of block etc. The exact detail of placements will need to be agreed between the employer and the HEI bearing in mind the requirements for an apprentice as outlined in the previous answer.

Would you need to apply for placements outside of your normal place of work?

While apprentices will spend much more of their working week in the workplace than with a  traditional degree, it will still be necessary to demonstrate that the apprentice has been given the opportunity for placements outside their usual setting. We would encourage employers of apprentices across a region or Integrated Care System area to consider options for the exchange of their apprentices to provide variety of experience for apprentices on a rotation approach for example. RCSLT is incorporating the apprenticeship model into the revised guidance on placement education. It includes guidance about placement education as part of the apprenticeship route as well as for traditional models of qualification. The revised guidance will be available in spring 2021.  The RCSLT curriculum guidance sets out mandatory placement hours required. Until the new  guidance is available, please bear in mind the following:

  • requirements in RCSLT guidance relating to supervision, the role of practice educators and universities all apply in relation to an apprentice.
  • RCSLT will take a practical approach, ahead of the publication of any new guidance on practice education, in considering how the mandatory placement hours will be achieved in an apprenticeship.

If your employer does not have the commissioning for paediatric SLT services, would that mean that your degree would be restricted to adult services, thus would your employability only be in adult services?

As with traditional training routes, apprentices need to undertake practice-based learning in both adult and paediatric settings in order to maximise their employability throughout the duration of their future career. Therefore, employers may need to work in collaboration with other organisations to ensure this requirement is met.

Funding

Will I be paid?

Yes. It will be up to your employer how much, subject to the legal minimum wage for apprentices.  This guide explains the basics.

Will I have to pay tuition fees? Will I have a student loan?

No. The fees for your tuition will come directly from the Government. You will not have a student loan.

Will my prior degree mean that my apprenticeship learning would not qualify for Government funding?

A prior degree will not in the great majority of cases prove an obstacle to your employer obtaining  Government funding for your apprenticeship given the unique nature of the SLT profession. The funding rules are set by the Government and change from time to time, so you and your prospective employer should be careful to check your eligibility ahead of making any commitments.

Would there potentially be any grants available for apprentices who may have to take a pay decrease to complete the apprenticeship?

An employer is responsible for paying the apprentice, at least at the relevant minimum wages rate,  whether this is time spent training or studying whether at work, at university or on placement. They  must be offered the same conditions as other employees in similar roles. RCSLT expect that SLT  apprentices should be employed at broadly the same level as speech and language therapy assistants. It is for the employer to consider the appropriate pay taking into account prior qualifications and experience. For existing assistants becoming an apprentice we would not expect to see employment at a lower banding as an apprentice. Employers will wish to consider whether apprentices can move up the banding scale as they reach milestones in their experience during their apprenticeship. The NHS Staff Council also provide guidance about apprenticeship pay and conditions in the NHS. In November 2019 they released a statement that it had not been possible to reach a national agreement on apprentice pay. Some organisations are using Agenda for change  Annex 21 salary recommendations for trainees. Others are determining their own spot salaries. We are not aware of any particular grants available to cover any decrease in salary.

Employers of apprentices

Employers: please note there is separate RCSLT advice for employers and universities available on the  RCSLT website

Have many NHS Trusts have shown an interest in offering the apprenticeship?

We are aware that many Trusts are interested in offering the apprenticeship. Many are already offering apprenticeships in other AHPs.

How does my employer find out more?

If your employer is a large organisation or NHS Trust, it is quite likely there will already be apprentices in your organisation. Your organisation may also already have pre-registration apprentices (eg, nursing, physiotherapy, paramedic and OT). If so, then there may already be support and processes in place. If it does not have pre-registration apprentices, it may have other types of apprentice. If existing apprenticeships in your organisation are not at degree level then the process of liaising with universities will be new, but it is new to the universities too and therefore represents an opportunity to find your way together. If you are in a small organisation that does not pay into the Government apprenticeship levy, then your process and funding route will be different  (see here for some advice on this), but you will still need to liaise with your chosen university.

What would my employer have to do in order to offer the apprenticeship?

Having commitment from senior managers, in terms of funding and support in delivery will be essential in helping your employer to plan and deliver an SLT apprenticeship. If you are employed in an NHS Trust, it is likely that your Trust will already be paying the Government apprenticeship levy.  This means that the Trust will be keen to make the most of their “levy fund” that they can draw on to support apprentices across the organisation. NHS employers offer some guidance here on obtaining support from your management.

How can we express interest in our local university running the apprenticeship?

In the first instance, contact your local HEIs (in particular those that already run SLT courses) and ask if they have any plans to develop an apprenticeship course. This will demonstrate to the university that there is demand in your area. It is worth bearing in mind that all universities will require a  minimum cohort of students to be able to run an apprenticeship programme and to be able to make a business case that the programme can be delivered within the potential funding envelope. The minimum cohort will vary for each university. Most employers will not be contracting a whole cohort, so we think there will need to be regional networks or other joint arrangements to pool requirements. Do not disregard apprenticeships if your nearest university that is considering  apprenticeships is some distance away. There is potential for discussions around flexibility and innovation in provision. There are already other AHP apprenticeships being delivered at distance from apprentices’ workplaces.

Will there be a contract for employment after the apprenticeship with the Trust you completed this with?

Government guidance is that an apprenticeship agreement should be offered for at least the length of the apprenticeship. While there is not a requirement to offer one for longer, your employer will have invested significantly in your apprenticeship (they will have been paying you for the duration of the apprenticeship) and will therefore have their own incentive to offer you a band 5 role if available at the successful completion of the apprenticeship.

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