Apprenticeships in NHS Libraries – get involved!

The new Level 3 Library, Information and Archive Services Assistant (LIAS) apprenticeship was approved for delivery in December 2018.

The standard covers a wide range of professional skills and defines the activities of a LIAS Level 3 apprentice as:

“LIAS Assistants help users find the information and resources they need in order to resolve their specific query. They work with people from all parts of society and the workforce, providing essential digital and analogue information services – issuing and returning materials, organizing collections, answering research and information queries, improving customers’ literacy skills, – quite often at the forefront of innovation.”

Within NHS libraries there are a couple of apprentices enrolled on the LIAS apprenticeship already and a few more are due to start soon. It is expected that there will be further LKS apprenticeships, either a level 6 or level 7 (equivalent to a Masters degree) in due course.

As we know in the UK 97% of the library profession identifies as white. Being a mostly postgraduate entry profession presents significant barriers to entry. Apprenticeships are a key route to diversification of the workforce, providing another alternative route to qualification alongside CILIP Professional Registration Certification. In addition, because of the Apprenticeship Levy enrolling staff on apprenticeships is a great way to allow Trusts to recoup funding.

Currently there is only one national provider for the LIAS apprenticeship, LMP. Procurement has been completed via Health Education England so it will be straightforward for LKS Managers to procure apprenticeships locally in collaboration with their Trust’s apprenticeship leads.

From our perspective in North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) Library & Knowledge Service, we were thrilled to welcome our first LIAS Apprentice, Nicholas Ashton in June 2020. With previous experience in sales, Nicholas understands the importance of providing great customer service and being a team player. We are all looking forward to working with Nicholas and supporting him to complete his apprenticeship.

As our main service point is still closed due to the pandemic Nicholas has mostly been working “agile” (AKA working from home) since he joined us. Members of the LKS team have taken it in turns to meet Nicholas in the Library 1-2 days a week to provide supervision and some (physically distant) face to face contact.

Apprentices are required to do 20% or 1 day a week of-the-job training away from their normal working duties. Off-the-job training can take many forms, the main requirement is that it supports the development of new knowledge, skills and behaviours relevant to the qualification.  So far Nicholas’s Tutor has set him tasks to complete during his off-the-job training.  In future I will use our contacts within the trust to provide him with opportunities to shadow colleagues in other Teams and Departments as well as setting up visits to other library and archive services.

At NELFT apprenticeships are also available to staff currently in post. A previous member of the Team, Clinical Librarian Lisa Burscheidt,  completed the Level 3 Team Leader / Supervisor apprenticeship. It was sometimes challenging to release a key member of the Team 1 day a week for off-the-job training. However, in this case nature of the qualification provided an opportunity for me to delegate some of my responsibilities, including supervision of another member of the team, to make up the off-the-job training requirement. Lisa found the apprenticeship very interesting and useful. As a manager I was very aware of Lisa’s development during the programme and how this contributed positively to the functioning of the team as whole.

So Nicholas is actually our third apprentice! Our first, Alice Cleaver, completed the Level 3 Business and Administration apprenticeship last year. We were able to promote Alice to Library Assistant on completion of her qualification. You can read more about Alice’s experience at NELFT here.

If you would like to be persuaded to recruit a LIAS apprentice or to talk about enrolling current team members on an apprenticeship do get in touch.

Natasha Howard, Knowledge & Library Services Manager, NELFT

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