If you are dismissing the opportunities to take on apprentices because you think it’s expensive and a hassle, then please read this post because you are missing out on a real opportunity to build the work force you want.

Apprenticeships have long been recognised as a valuable pathway for individuals to gain practical skills, knowledge, and experience in various industries.

However, there seems to be a persistent misconception within the care home sector that apprentices must be supernumerary, that is additional to the required staffing levels, and hence be an expensive investment.

Let’s debunk this myth and highlight some of the benefits apprentices can bring.


“An Apprentice Must be Supernumerary.”

“Supernumerary” basically means an extra person who exceeds the required or regular number of people.

We’re told that apprentices under 18 years of age need to be supernumerary. Which is why it’s hardly surprising that many care providers see apprentices as an expensive luxury.


Apprentices do not need to be supernumerary.

The need for an apprentice to be supernumerary comes down to the risk that they are exposed to. And of course, the lowest risk to an apprentice is if they shadow an experienced carer, hence the apparent requirement to be supernumerary.

But provided a risk assessment has been carried out in advance and the necessary things are in place to ensure that the apprentice will be safe, an apprentice does not need to be supernumerary.

For example, an apprentice can carry out tasks in a communal area under the watchful eye of experienced colleagues and even take part in 2-to-1 Personal Care with an experienced carer provided the risk has been assessed to be manageable.

If you run a residential care home, then the risks to the apprentice are far lower than if you run a nursing home for those with challenging behaviours. So, for a residential care provider there are more tasks that an apprentice can carry out safely. But even in a nursing home, an apprentice doesn’t need to be supernumerary if supervised.

If planned properly taking on apprentices doesn’t mean increasing your staff levels.

“An Apprentice is Supernumerary until 18.”

If a risk assessment shows that an apprentice cannot be fully supervised during their shifts, then they do need to be 100% supernumerary – but only for their first month.

With training and support the apprentice can progress to 50% supernumerary by their second month and become part of the staffing numbers during their third month.

This quick path to being part of the numbers does assume that they have learnt and progressed enough to safely work with your residents and that they feel ready to take on the responsibilities that the role entails.

If that isn’t the case then the 50% supernumerary will need to continue for another month and another until assessed to be safe.

But if the training of the apprentice is right and the support from colleagues in place then there is no reason why an apprentice can’t be part of the staffing numbers by month three.

And during the entire apprenticeship, the apprentice must have a mentor who will provide advice and guidance during the apprentice’s work with the service users. 


“An Apprentice is an Expensive Resource.”

If a risk assessment shows that you can keep an apprentice safe and under supervision as required and is hence not supernumerary, then there is only the extra cost of covering them whilst they are being trained in a classroom environment plus £193 payment to put the apprentice on the course.

This is because funding and support is available through government initiatives and apprenticeship schemes.

An apprentice may need around 54 days a year in a classroom for Level 2 and 77 days for Level 3 and assuming that these sessions would normally take place when the apprentice should be on-shift, those days will of course need to be covered.

If you do the maths regarding how much an apprentice costs versus a full-time member of staff on the national living wage, you may be pleasantly surprised with the result.

Let’s do the maths now.

Using the current national living hourly rates for a full-time carer at 23 years of age or above and the hourly rate for a 16- to 17-year-old apprentice, the table below shows daily and weekly hours on-shift and the hours of cover needed for a year for Level 2 and Level 3 when the apprentice is in the classroom. 

As you can see, if properly supervised and managed and hence not supernumerary hiring an apprentice will actually save you money.

Apprentices – Your future Stars

As well as being a sound financial investment, employing and nurturing an apprentice can bring many benefits to your care home.

By integrating them as active team members, they can actively participate in delivering person-centred care, working alongside experienced staff. This approach fosters a collaborative learning environment, promoting the acquisition of skills and professional growth.

When apprentices are fully immersed in the daily operations of a care home, they gain invaluable hands-on experience. By engaging in real-world scenarios and working alongside experienced professionals, apprentices can develop a comprehensive understanding of the care sector.

And they can bring a fresh perspective, enthusiasm, and a willingness to learn to a care home setting.

Integrating apprentices as part of your care home team can also have a positive impact on staff retention and morale.

Experienced employees have the opportunity to share their knowledge and mentor apprentices, fostering a sense of professional growth and accomplishment. This kind of collaboration can strengthen team dynamics and creates a positive working environment, which ultimately benefits the service users’ well-being.

Choose a good apprenticeship training company and you can be rest assured that your apprentices will receive the high level of training needed to be able to deliver quality care.

And over time you will see shining stars amongst your apprentices who may well grow to be your future managers and leaders.

As you see, the belief that apprentices must be supernumerary within a care home is a myth and that they are in fact a sound investment.

Our sector is crying out for more people, so all care providers need to grab these bright, motivated young people before other sectors do.

If you would like to know more about apprentices and how we can help, then do contact me at julie@qualityofcare.co.uk.

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