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National Apprenticeship Week: Building our health and social care workers of the future

Su Smith

By Suzanne Smith, Apprenticeship Manager and Levi Kestle, Graduate of Cygnet’s Nurse Associate Apprenticeship Programme

The theme for this year’s National Apprenticeship Week is Build the Future which rings true for us at Cygnet as I feel it has been our theme for the last three years. We have built our apprenticeship pathways and created bespoke programmes, specifically tailored to the needs of our organisation and sector, to make them our own.

We have offered 21 different pathways since we started our apprenticeship programme in 2017 and are looking to increase our portfolio to include more. We have offered almost 600 opportunities to complete an apprenticeship and have seen many of our apprentices earn promotions and progress with us.

Despite the pandemic we have continued to support apprentices through the most challenging of times and very few have asked for a break in learning and have managed to complete their programmes, many with distinctions.

Training mental health nurses of the future

The national shortage of nurses, in particular mental health nurses, is well documented, which is why Cygnet is proud to offer a Nurse Associate apprenticeship programme for staff who want to pursue a nursing career. Our Nursing Pathway is our most coveted apprenticeship programme and we’re now seeing our first cohort of graduates being promoted within the organisation as a result of their training.

Levi Kestle was a Support Worker at Cygnet Sherwood Lodge and successfully completed her two-year Nurse Associate apprenticeship last year. She qualified and applied for her PIN last June when she was also promoted and now works at Cygnet Views supporting women with learning disabilities and complex needs.

An apprentice’s point of view by Levi Kestle:

From starting out as a Support Worker, the Nursing Apprenticeship has not only developed my practical skills but also given me a greater understanding and input into patient care. The course also helped develop leadership skills by looking at the different learning styles of a team, the significance of a skills matrix, recognising strengths and weaknesses and getting the whole team involved.

I have spoken to lots of Support Workers who are now interested in the course and the pathway to do it. Many now have a drive for wanting to progress with Cygnet and do the training to become Nurse Associates and Registered Nurses.

Going down the apprenticeship route meant I was still able to earn money whilst learning as I couldn’t afford to go to university. I also gained knowledge whilst at work and benefitted from having a mentor on my shifts to help guide and support me through the course. Having a regular place of work to build my knowledge and skills, along with support from the whole team was invaluable.

“The passion and drive to succeed exhibited by our Apprentices has been awe inspiring. They have flowered and grown and we now have our first Nurse Associates in post, as well as new Team leaders and Managers, new Chefs and Lead Support Workers all taking their places in our services, using their expertise and skills to support our wonderful service users and colleagues.”Suzanne Smith, Apprenticeship Manager

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