“Staff start off on the course and just think, ‘can’t do it, too hard, got the children to focus on, all this homework’ but by end of six months, they are asking for it to be extended and don’t want to stop. You can’t make this up – truly,” says Sarah Redfern from Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
“This is about getting the best out of our workforce, so they feel more confident about their job. Results are showing they have a clear understanding of why they do things, what is expected of them and most importantly, the qualification builds confidence which is essential to the success of our hospital.”
In February 2009 following the government’s Leitch Review of Skills, which focused on identifying he UK’s optimal skills mix, Birmingham Children’s Hospital decided to invest heavily in up-skilling its workforce, starting with those members of staff who were historically not a priority in training and development.
Sarah-Jane Marsh, the chief executive officer signed the Skills Pledge, formalising the Trust’s commitment to workforce development.
Working closely with Bournville College, a series of programmes were devised for 31 per cent of staff including auxiliary nurses, business administrators, cleaners, porters and medical secretaries, who traditionally had no clear training pathway compared with other careers within the NHS.
Within one year, apprenticeships have been set up across a range of disciplines; 118 employees are working through an apprenticeship and an additional 100 are on an NVQ or AMSPAR (the nationally recognised medical secretary course). The courses involve regular study days in work hours and assessments in the workplace. Courses can take an average of 12 months to complete.
Sarah Redfern comments further: “Many of these workers left school with limited qualifications and we have the tools to help them bridge their skills gap.
“We’re not re-inventing the wheel but we aim to build our staff’s esteem, pride and confidence in their decision making skills.
“In turn, we hope they’ll feel better in themselves and more confident.”
Sarah works full time on the project alongside a full time project manager and two assessors. The average apprenticeship costs £5,000, for which the trust has received a mixture of funding from various sources.
Sarah’s advice for other organisations:
1.Listen to what your staff are saying. They might have struggled at school and shy away from further learning so any approach should be welcoming, clearly explained and the benefits easily understood.
2.Ensure there is support from the top of the organisation as this is not a quick fix, it is long term investment for long term results.
3.To prove success, or otherwise, capture the thoughts of staff through questionnaires and reviews throughout the programme and measure rates of absenteeism and turnover.
4.Finally - keep at it and don’t give up!
Kerry Coughlin, clinical support worker for the neo-natal surgical unit, successfully completed an apprenticeship.
“She said: “I really believe it’s improved my prospects. We spent a lot of time focusing on why things are done in a certain way, not just about how you would do something. My role means I’m around the babies all the time, I get to know the parents really well and my confidence has grown by completing this course. I love my job – even the nights.”