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Business & Economy

Providing a sparkling start to dentistry careers

Having delivered dental apprenticeships for more than three decades, Northern Skills is well versed in helping learners get a taste for the sector. Here, Dawn Longmore, the training provider’s regional apprenticeship manager, and dental nurse apprentice Ben Woodland talk about the value of its courses in creating long-term careers.


It’s a common misconception that if you’re interested in a career in the dental sector, you have to go to university.

In fact, you can get a start in the sector – and learn skills in a practice setting a lot quicker than you would at university – as an apprentice.

Northern Skills, part of Middlesbrough College Group, has been running dental apprenticeship courses for more than 30 years.

In excess of 200 students are presently working through level three dental nurse apprenticeships at Northern Skills, splitting their time between the classroom and the dental surgery, working at practices across the region.

Students can start from 16 with no upper age limit – some course members in the past have started apprenticeships in their 50s – and spend 18 months acquiring a wide range of skills.

Apprenticeships are fully Government funded, with no student fees, and apprentices earn while they learn, getting paid for all their time in class.

Dawn Longmore, Northern Skills’ regional apprenticeship manager, says: “Many nurses who qualify progress to areas including hygiene therapy, general nursing, dentistry, dental nurse tutoring, practice management and lots more.

“It’s an excellent stepping stone to many roles.”

Ben Woodland is in the first year of his dental nurse apprenticeship.

The 20-year-old, from Bishop Auckland, says: “I wanted to do a job which helped people, like healthcare, and when I heard about the dental nursing course, I thought it was something I’d really like to do.”

Ben splits his time between learning in college and working at the Westmount Dental Practice, in Sunderland.

He says: “I’m really enjoying the apprenticeship.

“I spend four days a week in the practice and one day a week in college, and the combination is great.

“I enjoy going to college, but I find I learn even better with hands-on experience, spending time putting what I’m learning into practice, rather than just sitting in a classroom.

“There are lots of things to learn, but I’m supported really well by the tutors on the course and by the people in the practice.”

He adds: “At the end of the three years, I will be a qualified dental nurse and there are lots of different routes and options I can take from there.

“The course has opened up a whole load of possibilities for me – I’m so glad I decided to join it.”