Thousands of people will next week – National Apprenticeship Week (4-8
March) – be invited to consider careers at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation
The Trust currently has about 180 staff undertaking apprenticeships – including
61-year-old Falklands War veteran Merv Hines (pictured and see case study below) – and in
December last year was praised by a Government minister for being “one of the
top performing apprenticeship employers in the country”.
NSFT staff will take part in the Norfolk Skills & Careers Festival at the
Norfolk Showground at Easton, near Norwich, on Wednesday and Thursday next week
(6-7 March), the fourth year of the event for 14-24 year olds from Norfolk.
Jane Stringer, NSFT Apprenticeship Lead, said: “We’ll be talking about the
variety of different careers in the NHS and at our Trust, but the main emphasis
will be on apprenticeships, both clinical and non-clinical.
“They offer an alternative pathway for people who do not want to go down the
college or university route.
“Apprenticeships provide opportunities for people to learn while they earn and
develop skills that will help them to progress and develop their careers.”
The Trust has offered apprenticeships since 2010, and their number and range
have expanded over the years.
Staff who are recruited to the organisation as apprentices undertake
apprenticeships of 13-18 months. Existing staff undertaking higher or degree
level apprenticeships, such as assistant practitioner or nursing degree
apprenticeships, can expect to be on a programme for 24-27 months.
All apprenticeships involve on and off the job training, and apprentices attend
study days with their training provider and carry out their own research in
protected study time.
In a letter to Jane dated 11 December, Anne Milton, Minister of State for
Apprenticeships and Skills, said: “As one of the top performing apprenticeship
employers in the country, I wanted to write to thank you personally for your
commitment, enthusiasm and drive for apprenticeships.
“You have clearly taken advantage of the reforms by growing high quality
apprenticeship programmes over the past year, benefitting your . . .
apprentices, and indeed the economy as a whole.”
The 12th National Apprenticeship Week, which this year has a theme of “Blaze A
Trail”, is being co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service and is
designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on
individuals, businesses and the wider economy.
* Current apprenticeship vacancies at NSFT are posted on the NHS Jobs website
and on www.apprenticeships.org.uk
Caption: Apprentice Merv Hines
is pictured at work at the Silverwood Child and Family Centre at Northgate Hospital, Great Yarmouth.
Case study: Merv Hines
The word “apprentice” tends to conjure up images of fresh-faced youngsters –
and not a 61-year-old Falklands War veteran.
But Merv Hines, an apprentice receptionist at the Silverwood Child and Family
Centre at Northgate Hospital, Great Yarmouth, breaks the mould.
He served 16 years as a Royal Marine Commando and saw service all over the
world, including during the Falklands War, and has also been a publican and
shop owner. But after about 100 failed job applications, he tasted success when
he applied for his current role.
“I’d read about the Equality Act somewhere so I knew I couldn’t be
discriminated against on the grounds of age, but I was still surprised when I
got it,” he said. “I love it, particularly interacting with people, and I enjoy
the crowd I work with.
“I’ve also learnt so much. I’d worked in admin many years ago but my office
skills had got rusty and I’ve picked up new, softer skills to help me deal
better with people.”
Merv’s apprenticeship began in May last year. In addition to being a receptionist,
he spends four hours a week studying for his Level 2 Business Administration
Apprenticeship and will take exams in Maths and English before his
apprenticeship finishes in mid-August.
Case study: Bekah Tavendale
While studying for her GCSEs, Bekah Tavendale was not clear what she wanted to
do for a career, although she did think about teaching and finance.
Her father encouraged her to consider an apprenticeship in the NHS but Bekah
was dismissive because she was not keen on the idea of working clinically.
Her father pointed out there is an army of “back office” staff who do valuable
work to support the clinical teams. So, in September 2017, shortly after her
16th birthday, Bekah joined the “army” and began a one-year apprenticeship as a
business administrator for NSFT, based at Endeavour House, Ipswich.
“Being an apprentice was very different from school but I very much enjoyed
coming into the world of work,” she said. “I have found it very interesting and
have met many different people who have supported me and given me many
opportunities to progress.
“Each day is different – as well as doing your day-to-day tasks, you never know
who you will hear from, who will send you an email or who you will help in the
“I get a satisfying feeling when I log off from my computer at the end of the
day, knowing what I have done, big or small, has made a difference to the
people who use our services.”
Bekah spent two days a week working for NSFT’s Financial Services department
and the remaining three days for the Commercial Resources department, which
involves non-clinical contracts. After completing her apprenticeship, she
successfully applied for a Team Administrator post, supporting the same
“I am very grateful I was offered this role,” she said. “It is a satisfying
feeling completing your apprenticeship with an organisation and for your
management to encourage you to go for a permanent role.”
Case study: Luke Rivens
IT technician Luke Rivens is proof of the many career opportunities that can
open up after completing an apprenticeship.
Since finishing an 18-month Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)
apprenticeship at NSFT in August 2016 after just eight months, there has been
no holding him back.
Luke successfully applied for an ICT Service Desk post at Hellesdon Hospital
and progressed further when he was appointed in January this year to his
current job as an ICT Field Support Technician, a role that takes him all over Norfolk
to help colleagues with more difficult IT issues that cannot be resolved
remotely over the phone. Now his sights are set on becoming an IT project
facilitator and, eventually, an IT project manager.
“I’ve always regarded myself as a people person and really enjoy meeting people
face-to-face,” said Luke, 23.
“When I was at school, there was a stigma attached to apprenticeships. Some
students were reluctant to do one because they felt they were only for people
who couldn’t get good grades.
“But in my experience, an apprenticeship can open doors to a fulfilling career
path whereas I’ve got friends who graduated from university and then struggled
for years to get a job.”
After university, Luke found an IT job with a large private employer in Norwich
but there were no opportunities for career development and progression, so he
applied for an ICT apprenticeship at NSFT after seeing it on the NHS Jobs
As well as spending time with various IT teams all over Norfolk and Suffolk
during his apprenticeship, Luke shadowed the Chief Executive and Medical Director
to help give him a better understanding of the Trust.
Case study: Bex Bilham
Assistant practitioner (AP) Bex Bilham is an excellent example of how NSFT is
using apprenticeships to develop its own staff.
Originally recruited after A-levels in September 2015 onto a one-year
healthcare assistant apprenticeship, during which time she also studied for an
NVQ Level 2 in Health and Social Care from Norwich City College, Bex has, in
addition, already completed a two-year AP foundation degree.
And this month, she started a two-year nursing apprenticeship degree from the
University of Suffolk which she will do while continuing to work as an AP with
the Central Norfolk Dementia Intensive Support Team (DIST), based at the Julian
In common with many NHS trusts, NSFT is short of Band 5 registered nurses – the
banding of newly-qualified nurses – but in just two years Bex will be able to
join their ranks.
“The phrase that the Trust’s Apprenticeship Lead Jane Stringer uses is ‘growing
our own staff’ and apprenticeships are a good way to do that,” she said. “I’m
very grateful for the many opportunities the Trust has given me.
“When I left school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I was more
interested in mental health than physical health because I did an A-level in
psychology. I was also looking for work where I’d be able to build up my level
of experience and develop my career.
“At the beginning, it was quite overwhelming but I liked it from the first day
because my colleagues were very supportive and I enjoyed being part of a team.
There are some very good nurses at our Trust and my ambition now is to be one
Bex has gained wide experience over the past 3½ years and is keen to develop
her career further at NSFT after she qualifies as a nurse. She particularly
enjoys supporting service users in their own homes and plans to focus on
Case study: Michael Jenkins
Michael Jenkins has exceptional levels of first-hand expertise of
apprenticeships at NSFT – he has already completed one apprenticeship to
qualify as an assistant practitioner and has just embarked on a second to
become a mental health nurse.
At 38, his career has had many twists and turns. His first job after leaving
school with just one GCSE was as an apprentice truck mechanic – an
apprenticeship which he did not complete – and during his eight years at NSFT
he has had a variety of roles, including as a storeman, library assistant, data
technician / receptionist, peer support worker and senior support worker. He
has also gained a Level 2 and Level 3 NVQ in Business Administration.
“When I worked as a data technician / receptionist, I enjoyed observing the
work of clinical staff and really respected what they did,” he said.
“Many years ago, I had mental health difficulties of my own and spent time as
an inpatient, and this experience has helped me in my Assistant Practitioner
role, and I’m sure it will help as a I train towards becoming a qualified
“The Trust has been supportive of me, and my ambition is to simply make a
positive difference to the lives of patients so they can lead a meaningful
life, with or without symptoms.”
During his two-year nursing degree apprenticeship, Michael will continue to
work as an assistant practitioner for the Central Norfolk Crisis Resolution
Home Treatment (CRHT) team, based at Hellesdon Hospital, but he will
also study at the University of Suffolk and undertake a variety of placements
to broaden his nursing experience.
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