Paramedic apprentices 'learn as they earn' in new boost to ambulance workforce

WATCH: ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw speaks to the first apprentice paramedics to graduate

A new paramedic apprenticeship programme has been hailed as a “fantastic opportunity” for ambulance workers to “learn as they earn”.

The first cohort has begun working on the front line in the South East, following two years of on-the-job training and study.

Grace Johnson, from Dartford in Kent, said: “I was nervous, applying for a brand new role again. But it was a great opportunity because I wanted to be able to work and do a degree at the same time.”

“I own a house, I have a life now, and knowing I didn’t have to worry about bills and my mortgage had a massive impact.”

Grace had previously worked as an ambulance practitioner. She was among 12 apprentices from the South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) to graduate at a ceremony in Carlisle in July.

They were among 200 newly qualified paramedics from NHS trusts across England. Training was delivered at regional centres, with the degrees awarded by the University of Cumbria.

Grace Johnson (left) alongside other paramedic graduates from the South East at a ceremony in Carlisle last month. Credit: SECAmb

It follows the release of new figures showing that the number of staff quitting the ambulance service has increased over recent years, with thousands of job vacancies across the country.

SECAmb Consultant Paramedic responsible for Clinical Education, Ashley Richardson said: “The apprenticeship degree programme provides colleagues who are already employed by SECAmb with a fantastic opportunity for career progression and to qualify as paramedics.

“The main difference compared to a traditional undergraduate degree is that the apprenticeship route gives you an opportunity to learn as you earn. You are a paid employee of the ambulance trust while undertaking your academic studies. That really does open up opportunity to all.”

The apprenticeship takes two years, as opposed to the three years of a traditional degree in paramedic science. With apprentices not having to pay student fees, and receiving a salary while they complete their studies.

It’s hoped that in the years to come a quarter of new paramedics qualifying each year will be apprentices.

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