Healthcare assistant apprentices take off in Birmingham

One of England’s largest mental health trusts has set up an innovative apprenticeship programme to encourage people to start a career in the health service. Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust  has appointed 27 apprentices who will have a one-year NHS placement experience including healthcare, facilities, pharmacy, business administration and IT.

Trust executive director of nursing Sue Hartley says: ‘This is the first time we have been able to offer so many apprenticeships in our trust; we want to support local people to gain experience of working in a mental health setting, ultimately helping us to build our future workforce.

‘We hope our programme will inspire the healthcare apprentices to begin a career in nursing.’

The trust says apprentices will receive job-specific training and support for study towards an NVQ level 2 or 3 qualification in their chosen field.

They will receive the national minimum apprenticeship wage. Eight of the apprentices will train as healthcare assistants to help develop the trust’s nursing workforce and will work alongside experienced nurses and support workers.

They will also be supported to achieve a level 2 health and social care certificate from South and City College Birmingham. The qualification covers core and optional units ranging from clinical skills to effective communication. If required, the college will also work with the apprentices to improve numeracy and literacy.

Megan Cruise

Megan Cruise is working as a healthcare apprentice with the Zinnia community mental health team at the trust. She started the programme in 2014 and works with patients with mental health issues such as depression and psychosis.

Service users need ongoing support in a community setting and the team includes psychiatrists, community psychiatric nurses and occupational therapists.

Ms Cruise explains: ‘I decided to start the apprenticeship because I have always believed that everyone should get the best out of their lives and I wanted to be the person to help them do that.

‘Before I came to the trust, I was completing a childcare level 3 diploma, and I worked in a part-time job as a retail sales assistant.

‘My working day includes sessions/activities with service users such as Tai Chi, cooking, football, snooker, reading and art.

‘Sometimes I talk to service-users about current affairs, personal life and offer support.

‘The team guide and mentor me, helping me to learn new skills. They also encourage me to become the best that I can be.

‘I will definitely go on to study nursing as it has been the career I have always wanted to do. The satisfaction of helping people daily is very rewarding.’