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    Vet Technician Higher Apprenticeship: Gaining recognition and qualifications for the role

    8 March 2024

    Our first Vet Technician higher apprenticeship learners are reaching the end of their course, so I caught up with Helen Whitaker and Janet Horsfield from Lanes Farm Vets in Lancashire to find out more about how the apprenticeship has benefitted the practice.

    Helen joined the apprenticeship programme as an experienced vet technician in 2022 and is now starting to prepare for her End Point Assessment after 2 years on programme. Janet is a Director and Vet at the practice and has supported Helen through her apprenticeship journey.

    I asked Helen why she joined the course and she said that the vet technician role has evolved over the years and is made up of what she can legally do. The Vet technician role is not regulated however, there are certain procedures she is able or unable to carry out due to legislation. Joining the course has meant Helen can work towards gaining a qualification that helps to standardise practice in her line of work and also learn more about other services that could be potentially offered as part of her role.

    Janet said the practice have always been keen to encourage job progression and job satisfaction and this course was a way of providing recognition for the hard work undertaken by vet technicians. She had been aware of what could be part of the job role but it was nice to send Helen on a course where she could see what other practices are doing and what else could be done as part of the role. It has been reassuring to see that other practices are doing similar things but Helen has brought back some ideas for other services that could be carried out, such as dynamic milk testing.

    Janet said that Helen is more confident in her abilities through completing the course and is more aware of legalities of the role. She said that vet technicians can be quite isolated in their roles, so useful to gain networking opportunities and for Helen to learn from her peers.

    Helen said the course has given her more confidence; she is a farmers’ daughter, so used to the farming environment and talking to farmers, but knowing legalities and regulations has helped her to be more assertive and confidently tell farmers what needs to happen. Helen said it is always good to refine your practice, so getting a full perspective of the role from others on the course has really helped. She also said that doing the course has helped maintain her enthusiasm for the role and she has enjoyed learning!

    A key part of the apprenticeship programme is off the job training; an employer must enable an apprentice to have 6 hours per week for learning activities relating to the apprenticeship standard. For the Vet Technician apprenticeship, learners are given online tasks to complete each week and they attend the university campus for 2 block weeks of teaching per year. Helen and Janet agreed at the start of the programme that Helen would have a day per week to complete her learning activities and this has worked well. Janet said that planning how the off the job training works in practice at the start of the programme is essential. Helen prefers to have the day at home, where she can remove herself from distractions of working in an office. The rest of the team are aware of what Helen is doing and respect this is protected time. Any appointments for Helen are booked around her off the job training day and ensure this time is protected. Off the job training can be flexible and does not have to be a set number of hours per week, so employers and apprentices can agree how this will work in practice, but forward planning is key to making this achievable.

    I asked Helen about her time on campus; she said she has enjoyed meeting other vet technicians on the course and being able to network with them. She said it is good to meet other people doing the same job and learn about how other practices work. She can then bring back ideas to the practice. Within the teaching sessions, the group have discussions about related topics so she has gained a better understanding from peers and the lecturers about the role. She also said that as Harper Adams University has a farm, they are able to see things in context and learn from practical activities rather than from text books or diagrams.

    I asked Helen and Janet about the advantages of the apprenticeship programme. Both felt the main aspect was gaining a qualification and recognition for the work done by the vet technician.

    Helen said that the course is divided into manageable, bitesize activities, which makes it easier to maintain relationships with her clients. If she were away from work for a number of weeks for the course, she would not be able maintain continuity of service and develop relationships with her clients. She said the course is also not too scary! You are given activities to complete each week such as listening to a lecture, reflecting on practical work or writing an assignment. It can feel a little daunting to start with however, it has always been achievable to get the work done within off the job training time.

    Janet said that as the course runs alongside normal work, Helen is able to put learning in to context. The learning stays current and relevant, and reflecting on learning throughout the course enables Helen to keep up to date with current practice.

    Funding for the apprenticeship is available in England and accessed via the apprenticeship levy. Some employers will need to make a 5% contribution to costs which would be a maximum of £650.  There are also options for joining the course if you are in Wales, Scotland or Ireland so get in touch if you would like to hear more! We have places left on the course starting in September 2024, so contact us to hear more about opportunities to join!





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