Build a career in care through new apprenticeship programme

A new and innovative apprenticeship programme has just been launched by Northumberland County Council.

Care for Life will provide training and on the job experience for anyone over 16 who  wants to get into a career in caring, and apprentices will also receive a wage while they learn.

There is a widely recognised need for more people to work in adult social care, and this new apprenticeship programme aims to produce a pipeline of skilled and motivated care workers.

It will bust myths around care work, get more people into this fulfilling and rewarding area of employment, and produce future managers and leaders.

There will be opportunities right across the county, with 30 places available this year in the first cohort. 

In Northumberland there are around 9,400 jobs in adult social care, with 950 vacancies open at any one time.  The current workforce has an older profile - with the majority female and the average age 46. As the number of residents over 65 also increases it is estimated that the number of jobs in social care will increase by around 33% in the next 15 years.

Cath McEvoy-Carr, executive director of adult social care and children's services, said:  “This new programme will give apprentices a fantastic range of experience and knowledge of the social care sector in Northumberland.  

“We want to drive recruitment numbers across Northumberland, redress the demographic of social care workers, produce a ‘talent pipeline’ of skilled and motivated people and help produce leaders of the future. 

“We want to create a clear career path and progression route for people who come into adult social care, and promote health and social care as a career of choice, ultimately improving services for those who use council and commissioned services in the county.

“We are looking for aspirational young people, either school or college leavers, who are looking for rewarding work. But it’s not only for the young; we will welcome anyone, of any age, who wants to change their career or come back into the work place in this fulfilling and diverse service area. 

“As an apprentice you gain work experience, do a nationally recognised qualification and earn a wage. An apprenticeship is a great way to develop skills and knowledge and become a confident and skilled care worker. If you're interested in adult social care an apprenticeship is a really good place to start.”

Northumberland runs very successful apprenticeship programmes where 92% of apprentices go on to full time work or further training.  

As well as the council, independent and private sector care providers will be involved in the programme, with placements both in-house at the local authority and in the independent and voluntary sector.

Apprentices will learn about all aspects of social care services - including residential, learning and physical disability, re-enablement and personal independence, ‘shared lives’ and short term support services.

The council’s learning and skills service will provide Adult Care Worker Level 2 aspects of the programme, which will be supplemented by further training from Skills for Care.

A number of people already working in adult social care in Northumberland have come forward as ambassadors for the programme and their stories will show applicants and potential applicants what it’s really like to work in adult social care.  You can see their stories below.

The council is running Care for Life information events across the county, where carers and managers will help answer questions, and give potential apprentices and their families an insight into the world of care. 

The team will be at:
  • Alnwick Learning Centre on the 23 July;
  • Queen’s Hall Hexham on the 24 July; and 
  • Concordia Leisure Centre in Cramlington on the 25 July. 
The sessions will run from 10am to 12 noon, and 1pm to 3pm, with group talks by people in caring careers at 11am and 2pm.

You can find all the information about the events and the Care For Life apprenticeship and how to apply at  careforlife.org.uk or by phoning 01670 622104. 


Some social care case studies:


Bev Sproates is service manager at the Tynedale day care centre and CORE Furniture in Hexham.  

Bev started working in Northumberland 25 years ago - as a care assistant at Dene Park in Hexham.  She says that lots of doors have opened for her since then, with brilliant training opportunities and opportunities to develop, and that the council is a very supportive place to work.

“I’ve always worked in care, but it was when I started in council social services that I really started to love it,” says Bev.

“I manage both staff and volunteers at the Tynedale Centre and everyone has opportunities to learn and develop.  It is definitely never humdrum, it’s very exciting, and there are loads of projects to get involved with.

“There are a lot of opportunities in care.  You might start off in adult social care and then branch out into safeguarding or nursing or a range of other things. People specialise in particular areas too. 

“People who come to work in this service aren’t just coming into care, they get experience that’s applicable to lots of different jobs, it’s really broad work.”


Jacob Rotheroe-Hemming is a care supervisor at Hepscott Park near Morpeth.  

Caring is in Jacob’s family, with his mother an assistant manager in a similar service.  He was first involved in care work when he helped out at the horticultural facilities in the summer as a teenager. 

He then went to university where as part of his degree he learned more about disabled people over the past few centuries, and how they were treated.  

“I think that that is why I find this kind of work so important”, says Jacob.

“It gives people with a learning disability a platform to see what they can do, and to find out the great things they’re capable of. The line between who is a carer and who’s a client is more blurred here, there’s a sense of equality about it. 

“If you care about people this is a really good thing to get into. You get to contribute to people’s development but they also teach you things and give a lot back, which I find really rewarding.”

Jacob finds the council a great place to work too:  “There’s always someone supporting you and your development, and helping you through. There are lots of different skills that you can help people to develop too.  Yes it’s caring but there’s also art, cooking, life skills, loads of different things that are really interesting.

“It’s always varied, with different events throughout the year - whether it be Easter, Christmas, or a summer fayre.” 


Adrian Clarke is a care worker at the Mowbray Day Centre in Choppington.

Adrian first joined Bedlington Day Centre to help set up a garden, but before he knew it he was in the kitchen. He had a background in running bread making courses privately which was perfect for his role at the centre.  

He started with a small baking group, and now there are fourteen in every session and the kitchen is packed. There is a small garden at Mowbray and during good weather Adrian is hoping to expand activities to do gardening as well as cooking.  

He says:  “It’s good to see things working and growing based on what the service users actually want to do. 

“I did a lot of training as a care supervisor and initially I was a bit uncertain about some things.  You learn about challenging behaviour and can be concerned about it, but the service users are all lovely to work with - just a little loud or boisterous at times! 

“The work is really varied, I’m covering for a kitchen assistant today, but I could be helping with absolutely anything tomorrow. 

“You get service users involved in activities like baking, they do everything for themselves  so they’re actually picking up life skills. 

“The variety is definitely a great thing in this job, you’ve got to be able to adapt to the work. It doesn’t feel like a job at all.  

“I would say give caring a go, absolutely. You get a lot out of it, you really do. We definitely need more people to get into this type of work.”


Kirsty Balmbra is a care supervisor who works at both the Northstar Centre in Berwick upon Tweed and The Pottergate Centre in Alnwick.

Kirsty looked after her own grandparents, and then went into caring for the elderly, before starting to work with people with learning disabilities around fifteen years ago. 

“I think when you go into care you need to have flexibility and an open-minded approach”, says Kirsty.

“You need to be positive, and want to give someone a good quality service, and remember you’re looking after a person at the end of the day, not just a client. You definitely need a person centered approach. 

“My favourite thing is to come in to work and make sure the clients are having the best time possible and smiling at the end of the day. That’s my reward; to know that our clients have had the best quality service and that they’re happy. 

“It’s a really rewarding job. You have to give it your all, and it can be challenging, but at the end of the day you think about the person you’re looking after and that’s your reward. 

“If you can make the world more understanding of people with disabilities then you’ve done a great job too!”
View all news