The first Level 7 apprenticeship for occupational health nurses is set to be launched by the University of Derby this summer, coronavirus restrictions permitting.
Neil Loach, senior lecturer in occupational health at the university, told delegates to this month’s Health and Wellbeing at Work show in Birmingham that the launch of the degree-level qualification would open up a new route into the profession, and allow employers to put apprenticeship levy money towards OH training.
“The apprenticeship route of entry is likely to go ahead in the coming months; we’re going to be going for NMC validation at the University of Derby. We’re the only university that we know so far that is going for the first validation,” said Loach, who is also vice-president of iOH, The Association of Occupational Health and Wellbeing Professionals.
“That is likely to happen in July, and basically, where employers are paying into the apprenticeship levy they’ll be able to send prospective students on a Level 7 course. It is only Level 7 at the moment and that’s the way that I think it will probably end up staying; that is the motivation behind it.
“It is also going to lead to SCPHN [Specialist Community Public Health Nursing] registration afterwards, as well as an end-point assessment, which obviously secures the payment for the apprenticeship levy to be given back to the employer,” Loach added.
The development of an apprenticeship standard and pathway for occupational health is something the National School of Occupational Health has been working on for some time in conjunction with the healthcare e-learning body Skills for Health.
The hope is that it will encourage employers to engage and with and become more involved in OH nurse education and training, which is under pressure, and enable more practitioners to come into the profession at a time when demand for workplace health support is increasing.
Separately, iOH used the conference in Birmingham to launch a new, low-cost £10 membership deal.
The annual £10 fee was financially viable because of the “successful launch” of a number of sponsorship packages that had enabled the association effectively to subsidise the cost of being a member, iOH said.
Student membership will remain free for the first year, and then revert to the £10 fee, it added.