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Minister says Trust’s apprenticeship programme is ‘one of the best’

The Right Honourable Robert Halfon MP is pictured with students from Truro and Penwith College. Also pictured is Bonnie Houghton, Head of T Levels at Truro and Penwith College.

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, the Trust was delighted to welcome the Right Honourable Robert Halfon MP to its headquarters in Bodmin on Monday.

The week recognises and celebrates the achievements of apprentices across the country. It also aims to raise awareness for those considering the next step on their career paths.

The Trust recruited its 500th apprentice starting onto an apprenticeship programme in September 2023. There have now been 560 apprentice starts since the launch of the apprenticeship programmes. It has also utilised 35 different types of apprenticeship programmes across all levels from 2 (entry level) to 7 (masters level).

The Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education met some of the apprentices from within the Trust to speak about their apprenticeship journeys.

He also spoke with students from Truro and Penwith College. They are currently in the first year of their T-Level studies and will be undertaking placement experiences with the Trust.

The Minister then chatted with the Trust’s senior management team and chief executives from the Trust and Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske. Among the topics discussed was how the Trust has used apprenticeships as part of its workforce plans and development.

He said: “I’ve been all over the country, but I have to say this is one of the best examples (of apprenticeships) I have seen. Not just in the NHS but across the board. Right down from the chief executives to every employee here, there seems to be a deep-rooted understanding about building an apprenticeship skills nation and making sure everyone, young or old, has an opportunity.

“That means job security, prosperity at the top of that ladder, but it also means meeting skills in the NHS. It’s a win-win.

“They (the Trust) are providing opportunities to everyone. Whether they are young or an adult, to train to do amazing apprenticeships, all the way from level 3 to degree.”

He added: “They are also building links with local colleges so we can have some fantastic T-Level students. Their presentations were absolutely brilliant.

“If you do the T-Level then they get jobs, they may go on to do apprenticeships, they may go on to university. It’s incredible to see the Trust doing everything possible to make it happen.

“It’s well worth coming here because the Trust really gets it. They understand how important skills are, they understand all the different skill choices for young people and adults.”

The Trust currently has 240 live apprentices. Another cohort of registered nurse degree apprentices are due to start in March 2024.

Rebecca McSorley is the lead practice educator with the Trust. She spoke at length with the minister and was pleased with how the apprenticeships had been received.

She said: “We should be really proud of what we’ve done in Cornwall. I’m really proud of the work that we’ve achieved, the number of apprentices that have qualified and we have more everyday asking ‘how can we start an apprenticeship?’ It’s a real success story for us.”

She added: “We really want to promote apprenticeships in the NHS. The minister seemed to really enjoy himself but also listened to some of the challenges we have.

“If he can help us to widen that, but also take on board some of the issues and challenges we have, we can hopefully solve them.

“It’s very much about how we can encourage the next generation. It’s okay having our current staff but we also have to attract younger people. We have to attract a wider group of people as well. So those who are unemployed or may have been homeless in the past. We want to open our doors to everyone and say ‘there is a career in the NHS for you’, and that’s what we want to drive forward now.”

National Apprentice Week also coincides with T-Level Thursday, which celebrates the success of T-Level and T-Level Foundation Year students and providers.

Student Jasmine is currently in the first year of a T-Level Health course at Truro and Penwith College.

She was with her fellow students at Carew House on Monday as they chatted to the minister about their career aspirations.

She said: “I did A-Levels originally for a week-and-a-half and I thought this isn’t for me. I went for a careers’ interview with the college. I wanted to work with people.

“It was a really good decision because I’ve spent the last 7 months doing some really worthwhile work. I like the practicality. We are in college 4 days week and then 1 on placement. I’ve been gaining hands-on experience and watching the way that things work.

“I work with the district nursing team and to know what goes on behind the scenes reinforces why I want to be a part of it. To know that everything I am doing in the class room means something and you do put all those things in to practice.”

The T-Level in Health is a fantastic course for young people who are ready to take on a challenging curriculum and work in a clinical setting. It currently represents just 10% of Health and Social Care learners.

The Trust is one of the first organisations to offer paid placements to Year 2 T-level students, to enable them to join our workforce whilst still studying for their qualification. They are then automatically guaranteed an interview for clinical professional apprenticeships to continue their career development.

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