Background. Increasingly in the United Kingdom (UK) assistants are being introduced as part of the midwifery workforce. However, there appears to be little standardization in the qualifications and training provided. Aim. The aim of this study was to investigate what an educational programme for midwifery assistants should contain. Research methods. A total of 100 qualified midwives and 58 midwifery students were asked to complete a mailed questionnaire and subsequently 20 of these respondents were interviewed. Results. Respondents identified three levels of competencies that midwifery assistants should possess. They also acknowledged that midwives required specific training in how best to supervise assistants. Respondents maintained that each assistant should have a clinically-based midwifery mentor and that rotation around different clinical areas should be included as part of a training programme. Furthermore, it was stressed that because midwives initiate, teach and supervise assistants, they should have a key role in planning training programmes and in the teaching and assessment processes. Nonetheless, it was accepted that such a role could divert the midwife from valuable contact time with the mother and baby, the opposite of what the introduction of assistants was intended to do. Conclusions. Before working in clinical areas midwifery assistants need practice-based training that focuses on skills development. Communications and interpersonal skills should be included in the training as should placement experience in a variety of clinical settings. Midwives have a role in providing this training, and in mentoring and supervising midwifery assistants, but it is accepted that this could add to their workloads. Developments of this kind need to be evaluated, especially in terms of the impact on direct care by midwives.