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Nursing apprentice features in campaign to promote on-the-job training

Sarah Eley wanted to do something ‘fulfilling and worthwhile’ after 30 years of office work

Sarah Eley wanted to do something ‘fulfilling and worthwhile’ after 30 years of office work


Apprentice nursing assistant Sarah Eley

A nursing apprentice features in a new government campaign to tackle outdated perceptions of on-the-job training schemes.

The Fire it Up initiative, launched by the Department of Education today, aims to raise awareness about the range of apprenticeship options for people of all ages.

Lifelong ambition

Apprentice nursing assistant Sarah Eley works in the ophthalmology department at Cromer Hospital, part of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. She decided on a change of career when aged 50.

Ms Eley said: ‘After working in an office for 30 years, I didn’t feel I was making any great impression on the world.

‘I wanted to do something that I considered to be fulfilling and worthwhile. It had been a lifelong ambition to work in nursing – it is one of my biggest regrets that I didn’t get into it when I was younger.’

She appears in the campaign’s launch advert and is the subject of one of the video case studies featured on the Fire it Up website. 

Work and study

Under an apprenticeship scheme, apprentices are released by their employer to study part-time in a higher education institution, as well as training in a variety of practice placement settings. 

The government launched nursing degree apprenticeships in England in 2016. However, by June last year only 100 people had begun a course – far below the government’s target of 1,000 per year.

Education secretary Damian Hinds warned at the end of last year that the UK must drop its ‘snobby attitude’ to technical and vocational education, or risk being left behind our European neighbours after Brexit due to a widening productivity gap.

Financial burden

In June last year, NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer raised concerns with MPs about the high cost to an employer of training an apprentice – between £35,000 to £40,000 per year, for four years. 

‘It is a very expensive way of training a nurse,’ said Mr Mortimer.


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