Skip to main content

Apprenticeship week: Raising Awareness of All-Age Apprenticeships

05 February 2024

To celebrate Apprentice Week 2024 the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (the Social Care Council), are highlighting the availability of all-age apprenticeships in the social care sector. We are encouraging employers in the independent and voluntary sector who want to develop their social care workers and support them to gain qualifications to find out more. 

We know that for sectors like health and social care there are many skills gaps and social care apprenticeships and All Age Apprenticeships offer opportunities for both new workers and existing employees to get started in social care and develop their career pathway.

Social care worker Josh Starkey, works for Praxis Care as a support worker. He said:

“Doing an apprenticeship feels like I’m being encouraged and supported to be the best that I can be.

“I work supporting people with learning disabilities and I get a lot out of seeing them flourish.

“I’ve worked in social care for nine years now but in other places I felt like I was hitting a brick wall – I wasn’t eligible for an apprenticeship because I was over 25. But through the all-age apprenticeship through Praxis care I can gain my qualifications in 12-15 months.

“I can work and still learn at the same time – the things I’m learning I can put into practice in my daily life.”

See Josh’s story here…

In Northern Ireland, you must be employed to take part in an apprenticeship programme. These programmes are funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE) and programmes are available at Level, 2, Level 3 and Higher-Level Apprenticeships from Level 4 upwards. Employers who participate in the scheme can access additional resources to support their workforce who participate.

All-age apprenticeships give people of any age the opportunity to undertake specialised qualifications as they work – previously the normal cut-off age for apprenticeships was 25.

Apprenticeships allow people to earn while they work – gaining not just knowledge but also practical experience, skills and a recognised accredited qualifications.

From an employer perspective Sharon Foster, Learning and Development Manager at Praxis Care is a passionate advocate of social care apprenticeships and would encourage other employers to give them a go. She said:

“We support people both internally and externally in apprenticeships through the Apprentice NI programme.

“An apprenticeship framework provides a standardised approach to practise. It meets the individual’s needs, the employer’s needs and the sector needs. It gives people who have never had the chance to do a vocational, professional qualification, it also then helps people earn while they learn so they don’t have to leave their job in order to study.

“We’ve seen that apprenticeships allow individuals to see qualifications are more accessible and that in itself promotes recruitment and retention.”

See Sharon’s story here…

Over the last three years the Social Care Council has engaged with employers, managers, frontline staff, service users and other key stakeholders to develop a qualification-based register, a continuous learning framework (called the Care in Practice Framework) and career pathway for the social care workforce and very much see social care apprenticeships as a core part of this work.

Paul Rooney, a professional adviser from the Social Care Council said:

“We see apprenticeships as an important part of the jigsaw in terms of developing staff throughout the social care sector. They allow progression of the social care workforce into other areas of the health and social care system

“They give value to organisations by bringing resources ensuring their workforce continues to develop

“Our work drives up standards in social care, ensuring people have the necessary skills, knowledge and expertise to carry out complex work in the social care sector. We need to ensure organisations continue to see the value in them and get involved in the framework.”

To find out more about social care apprenticeships as an employer please visit –

To find out more about social care workforce reform and the Care in Practice Framework visit our website here –


Notes to editors:

  1. The Northern Ireland Social Care Council (Social Care Council) is the regulator for social workers and social care workers in Northern Ireland. It is a public body established by the Department of Health to support high quality standards of social work and social care.
  2. The Social Care Council’s Standards of Conduct and Practice form the core regulatory framework for the social work and social care workforce.
  3. The Social Care Council currently has over 46,000 registrants.
  4. For further information or media queries please email