At a time when many independent hearing practices are considering growing their business and adding to their workforce, the evolution of National Apprenticeships in England provides a cost-effective solution to increasing the capacity for HCPC-registered Hearing Aid Dispensers. Having just led the apprenticeship trailblazer through to successful publication of the Level 5 Hearing Aid Dispenser standard by the Institute for Apprenticeships,
This is an outdated view of apprenticeships. While there are additional financial benefits for employing a younger person, the apprenticeship reforms make the HAD apprenticeship suitable for any trainee who wants to develop a career in audiology.
There seemed to be two main disadvantages that smaller independents and owner managed, or family run, businesses told the trailblazer about; the first concerned the education fees necessary for a new trainee to complete an education programme that would provide eligibility to apply for HCPC registration, and the second was around the ‘readiness’ of a student as they complete their education programme.
Currently, an education provider will have put together a curriculum that does two things; first of all to meet the criteria set out by the Higher Education Institute or provider i.e. the syllabus breadth, depth and duration required to meet the programme level; whether a diploma or Foundation Degree at level-5 or a BSc at level-6 and secondly to ensure that the syllabus provides sufficient learning and skill development to meet the HCPC minimum standards of proficiency. This does not necessarily mean a ready now hearing aid dispenser upon registration. This may be less of a disadvantage in a large national business but significantly more impactful in a smaller business where the context of the HAD role can be a little different. Broader health and safety, business finance and profitability, marketing and advertising, ear care including wax removal, are some of the activities that a HAD may also be required to undertake. This is why the Trailblazer included representatives from smaller independent hearing businesses to design an Apprenticeship Standard that met their requirements.
Not necessarily. Any major change to an existing HCPC approved programme would have to be revalidated by the HCPC to evidence that it continues to meet their required standards to provide eligibility to apply for registration. However, an existing provider may prefer to leave their existing programme unchanged and provide additional courses or workshops that would enable the apprentice to cover the full training requirement of their apprenticeship. One of the fundamental benefits of Apprenticeship’s today is that they are employer led. This means that an employer can choose which provider to use for different parts of the overall apprenticeship. The only restriction is that each institute, or provider, must appear on the national register of approved training providers.
Registering an apprentice on the Level-5 Hearing Aid Dispenser Apprenticeship programme provides a government educational grant for the employer that is capped at £12,000 per apprentice. If an employer is of a size that means they already pay the apprenticeship levy, the grant is then funded from the employers levy account. If the employer had an annual wage bill of less than £3m and therefore does not pay the levy, then the employer is required to fund only 10% of the overall cost with the balance of the fees paid by central government.
On average, there is an expectation of around 15 months. It will be different depending on whether an apprentice completes all parts of their education in a linear plan or whether some parts are completed in parallel. However, the standard requires a programme of not less than 12 months with a minimum of 20% of the time spent ‘off the job training’, and a maximum of 24 months. Duration is something that an employer can manage in their choice of approved training providers.
Having chosen the Level-5 HAD apprenticeship standard, the next step is to choose the education or training provider, or combination of providers. Speaking to any of the existing HCPC approved programme providers is a good place to start. You can find their details on the HCPC web site. Next you would recruit your apprentice, just as you would with any other appointment, making an apprenticeship agreement and commitment with them. This gives details of what you agree to do for the apprentice, including:
You can download a template for an apprenticeship agreement from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-agreement-template
You can also use an ‘Apprenticeship Training Agency’ if you want to employ an apprentice without the responsibility of running the apprenticeship scheme yourself. Details of this service can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-training-agencies
There are two different and independent assessments within the HAD apprenticeship. The first assessment is that which the education provider conducts to ensure that the HCPC minimum standards of competence are achieved thereby providing eligibility to apply for registration. As an example, this is no different to the current process of ‘final exams’ for a Foundation Degree. After this assessment, and when the employer is satisfied that the apprentice is ready for assessment of all parts of the apprenticeship, including any additional modules or workshops, the apprentice attends an ‘end point assessment’. This is conducted by an independent assessment organisation, this being one that has not provided the training programme. On passing this ‘final’ assessment, the individual will receive their personal apprenticeship certificate and their programme is then complete.
On the Institute for Apprentices web site at: https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/search?query=hearing%20aid%20dispenser
This depends on which education or training provider an employer wishes to partner with. My suggestion is for employers to speak with any of the providers of existing HCPC approved audiology programmes, some of whom may also appear on the Institute for Apprentices approved training provider list, which can be accessed here: https://roatp.apprenticeships.education.gov.uk/download
We are all breaking new ground here. It’s an exciting time, especially as the apprentice reform puts employers in the driving seat when it comes to the content and standard of the apprenticeship programme. We are all; Employers, Training Providers and Professional Bodies finding our way through how best to make the apprenticeship, work in the context of our profession. We each have to experiment with new ways of doing things, to secure the future of the hearing profession. A number of employers, both National and Independent have worked hard to establish this apprenticeship, and I really hope that in the next few years employers of hearing aid dispensers make use of this opportunity to develop their most important resource, their people.