Anatomical Pathology Technologist Apprenticeships

Anatomical Pathology Technologist Apprenticeships


For National Apprenticeship Week 2024, we spoke with Darren Makin (Training Programme Facilitator) from North Tees & Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and Christian Burt (Professional Support Services Manager) from the Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology AAPT.

In this discussion we explore how apprentices are being trained as Anatomical Pathology Technologists, and how by building connections with professional body membership, apprentices are able to access a broader, enhanced learning experience.

This collaboration also influences positive post-apprenticeship destination, by offering guidance and support for professional registration, which brings structure to the apprentices’ aspirations of professional development and career progression.

The Anatomical Pathology Technologist route forms one of two professional routes within the Mortuary Technician Apprenticeship.


What is the format of the Anatomical Pathology Technology Apprenticeships?

Darren – We deliver the qualification element of the apprenticeship, which is a RSPH (Royal Society for Public Health) Level 3 Diploma in Healthcare Science (Anatomical Pathology Technology).  This is delivered to a cohort of approximately 50 students, who are based around the UK, with 10 of these being apprentices.  The delivery model is online.  The work-based elements of the apprenticeship are coordinated through the apprenticeship training provider and employing organisation of the apprentice.

The qualification is formed of 5 theory units and 5 work-based competence units.  For the theory-based units, we deliver extensive learning that it assessed through exams and assignments.  This theory supports the apprentice’s application within the workplace, so contributes to their portfolio of evidence development as required for the competence elements of the qualification, alongside guidance from their mentor and training provider.

The work-based modules require assessment from qualified Anatomical Pathology Technicians who are registered with the AAPT.  By building strong communication and connections between us and AAPT, as well as tri-party collaboration with the apprentices, apprentice training provider and the apprentice’s employer, we can offer the best and broadest learning experience.

Its’ this combination of theory into practice required by an apprentice, and assessed through various and independent means, that requires strong interconnections between the organisations involved with the apprentices progress.

How does professional body membership with the AAPT support apprentices?

Darren – We invest by providing AAPT membership to the apprentices at the beginning of the provision.  This offers to them the following benefits:

  • Access to resources that are only available to AAPT members
  • Mentoring support that builds awareness of these valuable feature of membership for the Level 3 apprentices, ready for them to utilise fully once they progress onto a Level 4 Diploma on completion of their apprenticeship
  • Develops a wider awareness and scope of practice in the profession. It delivers a sharing of experience, perspective and approaches wider than a single NHS Trust
  • It expands their professional network
  • Provides access to CPD (continuous professional development). This is so important for all stages within a career and positions them in a strong place for professional registration.
  • Access to learning activities that can contribute to off-the-job training

Christian – Darren summarises the benefits of membership to the apprentice well.  What I would add is that apprentices (as student members) can also attend the Annual Educational Event (AEE), which allows them to network with other professionals. The AEE has a day delegate discounted rate for student members.

Student members can also attend AAPT member-only webinars and online courses that can impart knowledge of specific technical skills within the profession and more broader aspects of the profession such as how to take consent and recent changes in death certification.

All members have direct contact with the AAPT office, and I can advise them on the opportunities that membership of the AAPT can support them with.  This may be through our CPD offer, which we have some exciting plans to develop further.  Apprentices also have the opportunity to contribute to policy and industry developments through providing their voice to AAPT Council activity through the published AAPT Strategy 2021-25



How does professional registration fit into the apprenticeship progression?

Darren – By being a member of AAPT during their apprenticeship, apprentices are in a good position to then become professionally registered.  We promote to the apprentice the benefits of professional registration in that it provides a badge of quality.  It shows others that the apprentice meets quality standards and importantly is committed to maintaining and building upon those standards.

It’s really important that we widen this message, so I work extensively with employers and industry to develop the awareness of the benefits of professional registration, to encourage this to be part of the framework of the occupation and expectation of those working in the sector.

For the individual, being professionally registered can improve their career prospects.  Having that stamp of quality could make the difference when they apply or interview for a job.

Christian – Anatomical Pathology Technologist is not a protected title by statute (i.e. a HCPC registered profession) although we are starting to see employers mandate professional registration when advertising APT vacancies.

This industry-driven shift in mindset will encourage graduate apprentices in becoming a Registered Science Technician (RSciTech) and a demonstrate a commitment to maintaining standards and lifelong learning through CPD.

Darren – To further encourage an industry shift in professional registration, apprentices are now required to become a Registered Science Technician RSciTech if they wish to progress onto the Level 4 Diploma.  We are able to support this progression for apprentices completing the ATP Level 3 apprenticeship, as the apprenticeship is eligible for a shortened application route.

Christian – AAPT will support Darren and the Science Council in delivering guidance/webinars to the apprentices on how to apply for RSciTech using the shortened route.  They are able to use their apprenticeship achievement as the base of the evidence for this application.


What are the benefits of collaborative work across organisations for the apprentice?

Darren – By engaging with industry experts through the AAPT, it brings alignment to the industry and ensures an adaptability that can account for changes occurring in the sector.  With the need for independent, end point assessments, the experts that fill these assessment roles have connections with the AAPT.  It’s this expert assessment that ensures a validity, quality, and robustness to the assessments within the apprenticeship.

By communicating with the training provider, the mentor of the apprentice, the awarding body of the on-programme qualification, and wider industry through the AAPT, the support mechanisms can be accessed to ensure apprentices achieve, and where barriers occur, identify a suitable intervention and support plan.  It’s all about embedding these working connections within the apprenticeship.

Christian – The AAPT have an excellent relationship with the training centre, RSPH and all relevant stakeholders in the mortuary industry. Recently we have been in discussion with the RSPH with the aim of forming a Sector Advisory Panel for our Anatomical Pathology Technology.

In essence, this ensures AAPT, the RSPH and the training centre are at the heart of reviewing the qualification to ensure it continues to be fit for purpose and, therefore, apprentices will graduate knowing they have secured a qualification that meets the needs of service users in the mortuary industry for both the NHS and local authoriry-managed mortuaries.


Science Council – summary

Tom Cheek – Apprenticeship Programme Manager

The apprenticeship landscape can be wider than apprentice, provider and employer.  This case study demonstrates well, the power of learning and potential for progress that can be harnessed when a professional body, and its’ network of professionals, along with resources and features of membership, are embedded within the apprenticeship provision.

By making membership a part of the early learning plan, and registration as a Registered Science Technician RSciTech as a pre-requisite for progression routes, apprentices have access to communities of learning and pathways for success.

AAPT are rooted within the training and assessment organisations that form the on-programme and end point assessment aspects of this apprenticeship.  By being integral in this way, AAPT can deliver the best in industry expertise, ensuring that their contribution facilitates providers and others in the apprenticeship provision, the resources required to deliver training that meets the workforce skills of the sector.

The shortened application route for RSciTech makes the process of professional registration less daunting, by recognising the experience, skills and knowledge the apprentice has developed and been assessed on as part of their apprenticeship, streamlining the requirements of the application itself.  The apprentice can invest the achievement of their APT apprenticeship to be recognised with a pan-science registration, awarded by the professional body AAPT, who uphold the standards and skill requirements of Anatomical Pathology Technologists.