Apprenticeships (England only)

Interested in speech and language therapy apprenticeships? Take a look at our information for prospective apprentice SLTs to find out whether an apprenticeship is for you.

If you’re a potential employer or university interested in developing an apprenticeship, please see our information for employers and universities.

About apprenticeships

The RCSLT is actively supporting the development of degree-level apprenticeships in speech and language therapy.

Apprenticeships offer opportunities to work and study simultaneously, so you can earn an income while training to become a qualified speech and language therapist (SLT).

Due to Government funding, the speech and language apprenticeship is currently only available in England.

The Governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland 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.

The first speech and language therapy apprenticeships are due to be delivered by the University of Essex in 2022, Birmingham City University in January 2023 and the University of Sheffield from 2023.

The degree part of the apprenticeship can be made available by universities at either undergraduate or master’s level with RCSLT accreditation. They will decide which to offer, there is not likely to be a choice for individuals.

The entry requirements will be broadly similar to those for existing university-based courses, but it will be up to the employer and university to decide and existing relevant experience is often taken into account.

The undergraduate apprenticeship is likely to be around four years long and the master’s around three years.

Key features of apprenticeships

The speech and language therapy apprenticeship will:

  • Provide a mix of work-based and academic-based learning.
  • Define a high-quality learning experience and support for apprentices.
  • Align with HCPC requirements for eligibility to register to practice as an SLT in the UK and to use the protected title.
  • Only be available in England – they are not yet supported at pre-registration level by governments in the other nations.

How do apprenticeships work?

  • An apprentice is an employee not a student – an apprentice does not have a student loan.
  • The employer is responsible for paying the apprentice a wage.
  • The apprentice’s tuition fees are paid for via the government apprentice levy.
  • A minimum of 20% of the apprentice’s working week must be spent in learning away from the workplace – this time can be arranged in different ways; for example in blocks rather than as a fixed day per week.
  • An apprentice SLT should also have protected time for academic study.

 

The degree structure

 

What qualification will I get?

The proposed speech and language therapy apprenticeship is a degree-level course – as part of the apprenticeship you’ll complete either an undergraduate or master’s pre-registration degree – just like university-based speech and language therapy students.

How long will it take?

We anticipate that the apprenticeship will be approximately four years long. It may be shorter if you already have a relevant degree and are able to undertake a master’s level qualification as part of the apprenticeship.

In the same way that the master’s qualification, via the traditional route, is usually shorter than the undergraduate route, we would also expect the master’s 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.

An employer will assess and quantify what relevant prior learning an apprentice has at the start of the apprenticeship. It is up to individual universities to decide whether further flexibility due to prior learning is possible.

Will I be able to study 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.

I’m a speech and language therapy assistant (SLTA) – will I continue my existing SLTA responsibilities?

The apprenticeship will need to provide for appropriate duties for an apprentice SLT and 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.

What is the split between working and studying?

An employer would need to offer and provide a specific speech and language therapy 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 you spend 20% of your working week in academic learning, then it would take around 4 years to complete the undergraduate pre-registration curriculum.

Please note, that this assumes a normal working year, not a traditional university academic year.

If you 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.

The university and employer will need to agree what percentage this will be.

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 four years to complete.

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

A speech and language therapy apprenticeship would require your employer to offer a new agreement as an apprentice SLT. 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 which one would employ you as an apprentice, how they would share that responsibility and if this could be made to work.

Applying for an apprenticeship

 

How do I become an apprentice SLT?

When the apprenticeship is available you will be able to apply for an apprenticeship with an employer who is offering them. It is still too early to know which employers will be offering them – keep checking this page for updates.

Most SLT employers that we are aware of are planning initially to offer the apprenticeship through internal recruitment rather than external. If you are not currently in an SLT or therapy assistant role, or in another NHS role or working in a private SLT practice, you might wish to consider this route as an option.

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

Currently, the University of Essex, Birmingham City University and the University of Sheffield have said they will offer the speech and language therapy apprenticeship, with apprentice employers. The University of Essex plan to start in autumn 2022 with the other universities in 2023.

There are no confirmed plans for any other HEIs to deliver a speech and language therapy 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. In most cases, a prior degree won’t be an obstacle to starting a speech and language therapy apprenticeship given the unique nature of the SLT profession.

If you already have a relevant degree, it may be possible in future to do the apprenticeship at master’s level in a shorter time than the expected four years, though currently we are not aware of any universities planning the apprenticeship at a masters level.

What is a relevant degree?

An employer and university will need to assess and quantify what criteria they wish to set for applicants via the undergraduate and master’s route. This may be variable and may also be considered holistically with the level of work experience.

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.

Funding

 

Will I be paid during my apprenticeship?

Yes, you will be paid an apprenticeship wage. It will be up to your employer how much, subject to the legal minimum wage for apprentices, and your prior experience or qualifications. This Which? guide explains the basics (PDF).

The RCSLT expects that apprentice SLTs should be employed at broadly the same level as speech and language therapy assistants.

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 (PDF). Some organisations are using Agenda for change Annex 21 salary recommendations for trainees. Others are determining their own spot salaries.

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?

In most cases, a prior degree will not be an obstacle to your employer obtaining Government funding for your apprenticeship given the unique nature of the speech and language therapy 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.

Will there 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. Apprentices must be offered the same conditions as other employees in similar roles.

We would not expect to see employment at a lower banding for existing assistants becoming an apprentice.

We are not aware of any particular grants available to cover any decrease in salary.

Placements

 

How would placements in other clinical areas be possible, for example 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 master’s training courses. The apprentice’s employer and university should work together to ensure that these requirements are met.

What format would placements take?

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.

Will I need to apply for placements outside of my normal place of work?

While you will spend much more of your working week in the workplace than with a traditional degree, it will still be necessary to demonstrate that you have been given the opportunity for placements outside your 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.

The RCSLT is incorporating the apprenticeship model into the revised guidance on practice-based learning. It includes guidance about placement education as part of the apprenticeship route as well as for traditional models of qualification.

The RCSLT curriculum guidance sets out mandatory placement hours required.

If my employer does not have the commissioning for paediatric speech and language therapy services, would that mean that my degree would be restricted to adult services, thus would my employability only be in adult services?

As with traditional training routes, apprentices need to undertake practice-based learning in both adult and paediatric settings 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.

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