The government must introduce more funding for environmental health apprentice schemes, says the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) in a letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak.
In the letter, the CIEH calls for an £18m ring-fenced fund, which they say would allow local each local authority in England to train at least one apprentice over a four-year programme.
Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) have been classed as key workers from the beginning of the pandemic due to the role they have played in ensuring businesses comply with safety and Coronavirus Regulations as well as in supporting communities in a variety of ways.
However, even before the pandemic, there were serious shortages of qualified and experienced environmental health practitioners, leading to recruitment delays and difficulties for local authorities.
Early data from CIEH’s flagship Workforce Survey reveals that whilst the number of apprentices has increased between 2019/20 and 2020/21, the overall numbers remain very low.
Just 40 local authorities took on a total of 55 apprentices in 2020/21, whilst 101 local authorities told us that they took on no apprentices in environmental health at all in either 2019/20 or 2020/21 – 68% of the total sample.
Dr Phil James, Chief Executive of CIEH, said: ‘Initial results from our workforce survey suggest that relatively few local authorities are taking on environmental health apprentices, citing budget constraints and lack of capacity to mentor as the most common reasons.
‘At the same time, we know that local authorities are also struggling to recruit enough environmental health practitioners, putting a strain on local authorities as the pandemic continues. I know that there is a tremendous interest in training the next generation but funding for placements is the key hurdle.
‘This profession has played a key role during the current pandemic and big backlogs of work await many teams in the coming year. That’s why we have written to the Chancellor, calling for a ring-fenced Government fund of £18m to enable each local authority in England to recruit at least one apprentice in environmental health for the duration of the four-year placement.
‘This would significantly boost numbers of practitioners available to protect public health and put this vital profession on a more stable footing. This funding would also be a vital lifeline for many young people who have lost their jobs or have struggled financially during the pandemic.’
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