It’s National Apprenticeship Week (5-9 March) and there are some fantastic career development opportunities available across hospitals in Mid and South Essex.
Apprenticeships are a route into many aspects of a career in the NHS, in clinical and non-clinical areas. More than 350 of people of all ages have joined apprenticeship schemes across Mid Essex, Southend and Basildon and Thurrock Hospitals to date.
During National Apprenticeship Week the training providers including Anglia Ruskin University, the University of Essex, Intraining and Lifetime Training will attend Mid Essex, Southend and Basildon Hospitals to showcase the options they offer for apprenticeship learning and development.
Jayne Toplis, associate director of people and organisational development, said: “We are committed to improving the long-term career prospects of our staff, giving them a head start on forging a fantastic career. Our staff are our greatest asset and we believe in ‘growing our own’ by helping people to develop internally. Fostering talent is key to ensuring that our workforce is equipped to deliver the best possible care to our patients.
“Apprenticeships are a great opportunity for absolutely everyone, from school leavers to those who are looking for a change in career direction or want to do something rewarding with their career.
“There are a range of apprenticeships available to support your career development in both professional and technical fields such as healthcare, business administration, customer service, finance, and leadership and management and we have a dedicated vocational and workforce redesign advisor on site at each of the three trusts who can provide information, advice and guidance on the full range of apprenticeship opportunities available.”
Eleanor Evans, finance apprentice, BTUH
When Eleanor Evans, 19, was studying for a business diploma at college she found she had a good head for numbers. That made the prospect of learning while she earned with an apprenticeship, instead of building up a student debt, all the more appealing.
Encouraged by her college, she applied for an apprenticeship in the finance department at Basildon University Hospital, where she has achieved a level 2 qualification in Association of Account Technicians (AAT) accounting.
Eleanor said: “I had heard of apprenticeships but I didn’t know how much you can get from them. For me, it’s a much better option than going to uni; learning on the job means you develop your skills while building up work experience. And I’m not in debt!
“When I came for an interview they told me there were lots of applicants so I was really happy and excited to get the apprenticeship. My manager in the finance team arranged for me to spend the first weeks doing different jobs around the hospital – I helped the porters for a week, spent time with the purchasing and procurement team, and had clinical staff practising their plastering skills on me.
“It was fantastic doing that, because it gave me a really good understanding of what goes on in a hospital and how the money is spent. It made me understand how the work of the finance team is relevant to caring for patients.
“Everyone in the finance team has been so friendly and supportive. I have been studying while working and everything I’ve learned here has helped with my exams.”
Suzanne Pegrum, healthcare assistant, SUH
Suzanne, 46, currently works on Southend Hospital’s acute medical unit as a healthcare assistant. After nine years at the trust, she wants to progress her career and become a qualified nurse. With the backing of the trust, Suzanne has started an Assistant Practitioner (Nursing) Higher Apprenticeship FdSc Level 5 through Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and is well on her way to achieving her ambition.
Suzanne said: “I could never afford to go to university without the backing of the trust. I feel valued that my employer thinks I am capable to do this course. They are investing in me and once I have qualified, I can repay them back with my new skills and knowledge.
“I think anyone interested in education in later life should consider an apprenticeship for the experience, for the knowledge and just for yourself. If you feel you have more to give – do it. It’s very rewarding.
“Having left school 30 years ago, it’s really helpful to have a personal tutor help me adjust to university life as a ‘mature student’.
“Don’t ever doubt yourself. I never thought I would be clever enough to even entertain going to university; I left school with bad grades but 30 years later, I am studying at ARU. I have pushed myself to get to the level required, so don’t ever think you are too old to study. Age is just a number.”
Apprenticeships are not just suitable for young people, they are available to staff of any age and provide an opportunity to develop existing knowledge and learn new skills.
Jenna Twaites, communications assistant, MEHT
Not knowing what to do after college, Jenna enrolled in the work experience scheme at Broomfield Hospital. What initially was an eight week placement evolved into six months, working across the multidisciplinary communications and public engagement team.
Jenna said: “Joining the work experience scheme helped me to gain a focus. I really began to feel part of the team and decided that I wanted to establish a career in comms and public engagement so I applied for the business admin apprenticeship in communications.
“I quickly learned the value of on-the-job learning; it enabled me to put theory into practice during everyday activities, whilst continually learning and developing new ways of working.
“The NHS is an employer like no other; even though I am mainly office based, I have been on wards many times and engaged with patients collecting feedback etc. Being in the NHS and having the ability to make a difference to the wellbeing of a patient who is someone’s loved one is the ultimate reward for me; something as simple as making a cup of tea or ensuring the public information is accurate makes a difference.”
Jenna has since completed her apprenticeship and has been working within the communications team full-time for nearly two years.
“I really would recommend apprenticeships in the NHS. The experience, knowledge and versatility I have gained here is unbelievable. Being an apprentice was one of the best things that I have ever done - the possibilities are endless,” she added.
If you would like further information please contact the relevant individual for each trust below.
Laura McCullagh - vocational and workforce redesign advisor, Mid Essex Hospital
Nichola Waite - vocational and workforce redesign advisor, Southend Hospital
Rachel Gray - vocational and workforce redesign lead, Basildon Hospital