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Apprenticeships helping to shape futures at Southend Hospital

06 March 2017

Health Care

6-10 March marks National Apprenticeship Week and Southend University Hospital is supporting staff development with a wide range of apprenticeship opportunities, both patient facing and behind the scenes.

The number of staff embarking on apprenticeships since last year's Apprenticeship Week has been really encouraging, growing from 23 to 65.

Employees Trust-wide can start an apprenticeship regardless of age and at any career stage, in fact 73 per cent of Trust staff who started an apprenticeship in 2016 were aged 25 and over.

Two of those are David Biggs, 27, from Stanford Le Hope and Lizzie Furley, 25, from Southend. Both are currently Theatre Support Workers in the hospital's operating theatres and are doing the Level 3 Perioperative Apprenticeship.

Perioperative care is about providing better conditions for patients before, during and after their operation.

David, who has been at the Trust for two years said: "I'm working and studying towards my Level 3 to build upon my qualifications so that I can do my Operating Department Practitioners (ODP) course and progress career wise. They offer the course at Anglia Ruskin University, so I want to use my level three NVQ qualification to get enough UCAS points to qualify.

"I initially thought I was too old for an apprenticeship thinking that they were just for 16-19 years olds. I didn't realise you could do one at any age."

Lizzie started at the Trust in an admin role but has been in her current role for a year and is looking at progressing to the ODP course. She said: "Completing the apprenticeship will give me greater responsibility in my role. I think it is great that the hospital is investing in its staff, it is nice to feel encouraged to enhance my role which betters not just me and the team I work with but the hospital as whole."

"The support I receive is really encouraging from the Learning and Development team and senior staff in theatre, people are happy to help with any questions and advice."

And Fiona Sommerville, Practice Development Nurse for Theatres & Post-Op Recovery, explained how apprentices like David and Lizzie are having a real positive impact.

"Apprenticeships in theatres have really helped to enhance our workforce and department. The work-based programme has enabled personal and professional development with the opportunity of progression to higher education. We currently have four Theatre Support Workers doing the Perioperative Apprenticeship programme, this has helped in relating theory and practice, enhancing knowledge and skills and supporting a skilled workforce."

Delivering this and the other apprenticeship offers at Southend University Hospital is Vocational Training Services (VTS), who have been offering vocational training for the last 20 years and are based in Westcliff.

Vocational Training Service's Business Development Manager, Derrick Stott, said: "VTS has been privileged to deliver apprenticeship training to both existing staff and new recruits at Southend Hospital for many years. Our team of assessors and tutors love visiting the hospital due to the sheer enthusiasm of the learners there. All staff members put themselves forward for training and are genuinely keen to learn and become qualified - without exception they have shown passion for their work, professionalism and dedication. 

And VTS's commitment to staff and the way the apprenticeship works for David has really shone through for him. He said: "Support from staff at work and VTS has been great. I find it a real benefit that I get the chance to progress in my career and that don't have to leave my job to study. I love apprenticeships, I think they are a great idea."

That was also something echoed by Lizzie, who said: "I can still earn as I learn, I wouldn't be able to juggle going back to study now part-time, its great get to keep earning a wage and study at the same time and gain a qualification."

Opportunities for Southend

And the number of apprenticeship opportunities at Southend Hospital are only set to increase when the Apprenticeship Levy starts in May this year.

Eileen Gallagher, Careers and Apprenticeships Manager at the hospital, said: "The Levy presents a real opportunity for the Trust to consider a training framework encompassing apprenticeships as a pathway to growing our own.

"We are challenging and changing the mindset associated with apprenticeships. There are a variety of occupational areas to choose from ranging from healthcare to business, finance, IT, facilities and leadership and management."

In November 2016 the government announced the proposed creation of the nursing degree apprenticeship. Once approved it will enable existing staff and new recruits to train to become a graduate registered nurse via an apprentice route, with training costs paid via the Apprenticeship Levy.

So, next time you meet a member of staff at Southend Hospital, whether it be an HCA, nurse, secretary or theatre worker they may just be an apprentice as well.


Notes to Editor

Level 3 Perioperative Apprenticeship: There are the usual 12 core units including communication, personal development and health and safety, and then 9 perioperative based units, which all require observing as well as knowledge work. Some of these are: Transport, transfer and position individuals and equipment within the perioperative environment, Assist in the delivery of perioperative care and support to individuals, Assist in receiving, handling and dispatching clinical specimens and Provide support to the surgical team when preparing individuals for operative and invasive procedures.

Operating department practitioners (ODPs) are an important part of the operating department team working with surgeons, anaesthetists and theatre nurses to ensure surgery is as safe and effective as possible. ODPs provide a high standard of skilled support during perioperative care.

The Levy means that all employers in England with a pay bill over £3m will be required to contribute 0.5 per cent of their pay bill each year to a digital government managed apprenticeship levy account. The government will top this up by a further 10 per cent and employers - like Southend Hospital - can only use it for apprenticeship training, with unspent funds expiring after 24 months of being added to the account.

Apprenticeships range from level 2-7 and are aligned to educational levels with many higher programmes including a foundation or bachelors/master's degree. From May 2017 levied funds can be used to fund a staff member to begin a second degree where substantive new learning can be evidenced.