Spotlight: Transforming the workforce at MK University Hospital with the OU’s Degree Apprenticeship

The OU logo (on grey)


Since their formal launch in 2015, Degree Apprenticeships have been enabling apprentices to develop skills and progress careers with programmes tailored to overcome organisational skill shortages. This has resulted in employees actively contributing to closing an organisation’s skills gap, increasing workplace productivity and shaping a company’s future success.

Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust are one of the increasing number of organisations to embrace Tech Industry Gold degree apprenticeships, with the Open University, as a valuable opportunity to develop in-demand digital skills. And they are starting to reap the rewards already. 

 Joe Harrison, Chief Executive at Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust comments:

“The NHS recognises that digitisation is critical to get the best out of a limited workforce, and most importantly to get the best outcomes for our patients. We see digital degree apprenticeships as one way of doing this.  We want to make sure that we attract and retain the best possible people into our health service and into Milton Keynes University Hospital, and we see the apprenticeship scheme as a way of doing it.”

Ian Fabbro, the Trust’s Deputy Head of IT Applications was new to apprenticeships when he first came into the role. He is now a staunch advocate for them since their IT development team employed three apprentices who are all working on the organisation’s digital transformation project. The Trust is an awarded Global Digital Exemplar Fast Follower after being recognised for their strong capability and significant achievements in back office system innovation as they strive to support clinicians to continually improve patient outcomes. 

For Ian, degree apprenticeships are a viable solution in a market where skills can be scarce. The Trust can employ an apprentice and provide them with both a recognised and well-regarded qualification and education from The Open University, whilst equipping them with the required skills that can be applied immediately. The Digital Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeship offers an apprentice the opportunity to develop foundational knowledge and skills across the pillars of IT, with the opportunity to specialise in areas such as cyber security, data analysis, software engineering and networking. The Trust’s partnership with The Open University is highly collaborative and whilst apprentices take time out to study on a structured basis, the model can flex around the department’s needs. A University Practice Tutor visits on a regular basis and engages with the apprentices in the workplace to ensure they are getting the right support they need to be successful. For Ian, the programme works well. It’s easy.


Robson Grant is a Junior Software Engineer at the Trust and currently an apprentice on The Open University’s Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprenticeship. Robson comments:

“So far my experience with The Open University has been incredible and has changed me dramatically as a person both in and outside of work. I have gained an uncountable number of skills from this apprenticeship. My confidence has grown massively since embarking on the programme. On my first day I hadn’t stepped foot into an office or attended a meeting, but now after almost two years of working here I have been involved in just as much as a Senior Software Engineer would have been. I have met many interesting people and have achieved so much, including winning the ‘Baroness Wall’s Apprentice of the Year’ award for the NHS. 

The way in which teaching is delivered and study materials provided varies so no matter how you like to learn and study The Open University has an option for you. The programme itself challenges me weekly with a mix of small module activities and large assignments, all of which I have completed without any time pressures. 

The staff at The Open University are friendly and welcoming. They’re always on-hand to help and provide support whenever I’ve needed it. I’ve simply picked up the phone and given my tutor a ring. They helped me and solved the problem in minutes. 

I know I’ll use both the degree and experience I have gained from the apprenticeship to drive my career further within the software engineering industry. Once I’ve achieved my degree I’ll have a distinct advantage over others just leaving university as I’ll not only have the qualification but a strong skillset, wealth of industry knowledge and workplace experience, all without any debt.”


Find out more about The Open University’s Digital Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeship and short courses that can develop your employee’s skillset and support your organisation’s digital skills requirements.

Find out more about Tech Industry Gold accredited degree apprenticeships