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The benefits of dental nursing apprenticeships

Following national apprenticeships week, we have been exploring the benefits and challenges of nursing apprenticeships in Northern Ireland for those considering being one and hiring one.

Rachael McCloskey

As the recruitment pool for qualified dental nurses gets smaller and more competitive, dental practices can adopt apprenticeship programmes to recruit new trainee dental nurses and administration staff, opening the door to new paths and career possibilities.

A mutually beneficial relationship

Finding your career path can be challenging. There's a lot of pressure to have your future figured out from a young age. It can be difficult to know which path is the right one, but apprenticeships allow you to gain hands on training and gain the life skills necessary to have a fulfilling career.

An apprenticeship can be a life changing experience."

An apprenticeship can be a life changing experience. When I applied for the position of dental nurse apprentice, I had no experience within the sector, however, being passionate and showing that I was eager to learn and succeed in the position allowed me to become a valued member of the practice mentoring me.

Most jobs require previous experience in the industry, however, through a structured training programme you can gain hands-on experience while still pursuing the theoretical course. In just a year, you can become a fully qualified dental nurse and open your future to a new career and specialisation possibilities.

Are apprenticeships the answer to the nursing crisis?

As an employer, apprenticeships allow you to equip employees with skills and experience through a structured government funded training programme. However, in Northern Ireland, the National Examining Board for Dental Nurses (NEBDN) needs to be accredited by the Council for the Curriculum, Examination and Assessment (CCEA) before it can be recognised as a provider.

In just a year, you can become a fully qualified dental nurse."

While NEBDN has traditionally been the more popular dental nurse training course, there is recent evidence of FE colleges shifting to the City & Guilds dental nurse training course. These are run by FE Colleges and are CCEA approved, therefore qualifying under the apprenticeship scheme.

BDA NI recognises the significant shortage of dental nurses, and the gaps in meeting the demand for access to further nurse training provision. We are currently engaging with all FE Colleges to explore what dental nurse training courses they offer or are planning to provide. We hope to identify the local demand for training to enable FE Colleges to meet the vacancies in a more co-ordinated way.

Our Northern Ireland Council will be discussing the issue again at the end of March, and considering the responses we receive from FE Colleges. We continue to encourage NEBDN to take forward the process required to become an accredited provider under the NI Apprenticeship scheme.

Benefits and rewards

There are many benefits to a practice when you grow your own talent. Creating a structured training and development programme for an apprentice can positively influence staff retention, loyalty and productivity.

Choosing an apprenticeship means you won't have to pay training fees in advance."

It is also a more cost-effective option. Rather than going through with a more traditional trainee dental nurse route, choosing an apprenticeship means you won't have to pay training fees in advance.

If you are considering taking on an apprentice, there are certain rules you must abide by. You must pay at least the minimum wage and pay your apprentice for time spent training or studying for their apprenticeship, while at work or at a college or training organisation.

The Department of the Economy (DfE) funds two apprenticeship programmes and can support you in the process of appointing an apprentice.

Taking advice

Our advisors are currently receiving more enquiries about apprenticeships and are available to advise you on the intricacies of employment, the rules around national minimum wage requirements.