Spotlight on… Dentistry

Apprenticeships in Dentistry are an attractive option for those looking to pursue a career in dentistry and orthodontics. With comprehensive ‘earn-as-you-learn’ training leading to a secure and highly technical career in primary care, there’s just one piece of the puzzle that EPAOs are missing…

If a career path is secure, in demand, and provides plenty of opportunities for progression, apprenticeships can ‘sell’ themselves.

This is even truer in a highly-technical field that is otherwise only accessible through University - which comes with a student loan, and no guarantee of a placement.

What is surprising, then, is that despite Health and Science apprenticeships such as Dentistry having a consistently large intake (some 150,000 in 2021/22), dental practitioners are still struggling to recruit.

The cause of the skills gap? A bottleneck in assessments.

Fortunately, EPAOs are well-placed to resolve it - and those that do stand to gain as much as their apprentices and their employers. We’ll explain how below.

What are an apprentice’s routes into dentistry?

According to IfATE, apprentices looking to work in dentistry can follow one of three career paths:

  1. Dental Nurse (Level 3)
  2. Dental Technician (Level 5)
  3. Clinical Dental Technician (Level 5)

(This doesn’t include the role of Dental Practice Manager, a Business & Administration pathway).

Why are dental apprenticeships so attractive?

Dentistry is a particularly desirable apprenticeship, and we’ve outlined some of the reasons for this already.

However, another draw that’s not immediately obvious is how well-structured the standards and apprentice journey are.

With general apprenticeship drop-out rates approaching half, and many citing ‘poor employer support’ as a reason for leaving, a secure, well-defined journey ending in a placement is critical to encouraging both employers and apprentices to ‘stick the course’.

Naturally, as a heavily-regulated, technically-demanding field - similar to construction - apprenticeships in dentistry must involve structured, in-depth training in order to produce skilled professionals.

However, even with a stimulating and rewarding career path for apprentices (which produces well-trained staff for practices looking to plug their skills gaps), there’s an elephant in the room.

What’s stopping the field from flourishing?

You don’t have to be an EPAO to recognise the challenges in the healthcare sector - among which are the backlogs in patient waiting lists as a result of COVID and the current economic climate.

As a patient, this may mean a longer wait. 

However, as a dental practitioner, the pressure to clear the backlog and meet UDA targets has resulted in evening and weekend shifts becoming commonplace. Adding on the requirement to make time for continuous professional development, and practitioners’ time is stretched to its absolute thinnest.

It’s little wonder that EPAOs struggle to find practitioners who willingly take time away to assess new apprentices.

What’s the solution?

Bringing on apprentices, such as nurses, gives surgeries skilled professionals who can ease the demands on dentists, improve patient experience, and ultimately help stabilise overstretched practices.

For this, assessors are needed to ensure these apprentices are able to plug the skills gap, and whilst (in the short-term) time spent assessing is time spent away from earning a practitioner’s salary, it’s ultimately an influx of well-trained apprentices that will ease the industry’s current woes.

For this, it’s up to EPAOs to make assessment as streamlined and seamless as possible to incentivise assessors.

Those that do so will be able to attract many more assessors, employers and apprentices to their programmes.

How can epaPRO help?

Delivering end-point assessments (EPAs) efficiently and seamlessly benefits everyone involved. Apprentices feel more satisfied with their course, assessors are able to work far more efficiently, and EPAOs can provide an end-to-end service that earns a reputation for quality.

This is what epaPRO software can achieve.

epaPRO is an all-in-one platform that automates the most time-consuming tasks and workflows in EPA management - from booking assessors and updating standards to storing and communicating the information that apprentices and employers need to ensure success. And, it can all be done in one place.

It’s designed with your needs in mind, and if you want to streamline your apprentice’s journey in dentistry, health and science, or other fields, you can book a demo with our team to see how it will work for you.

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