Speed dating with a difference – how our apprenticeship programme creates the perfect match between candidate and manager

In a time when student debt is a genuine concern for many young people looking to develop their careers, an apprenticeship (where you earn as you learn) can offer a real alternative. Apprentice Kenny Haley and his manager Cynthia Savage share how the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust apprenticeship programme has created career development opportunities for both sides.

Kenny Haley, apprentice medical laboratory assistant:

“Before I joined the Trust I was an air conditioning engineer – it was a family thing, and to be honest, I wasn’t enjoying the job. Then I literally had what I call my lucky break. I managed to break my arm, and was told by the doctor that I would need to be in a cast (and out of work) for three months. I took the unplanned time as an opportunity to reassess what I wanted to do.

At the job centre they suggested that I could consider an apprenticeship to help me to retrain in to a new role. They mentioned that the NHS was offering apprenticeships, both in admin roles and in more scientific areas. I really liked the sound of a scientific apprenticeship and asked if I could be put forward. So the job centre put me in touch with StepAhead Apprentice Training Agency who work with the Trust on apprenticeship placements and help run the recruitment days.

The interview process

The interview was more like a speed dating session – all the applicants were asked to meet with potential managers for one to one interviews, and we had to express our preferences for the roles that were on offer. Then the managers did the same. We also had to do a series of activities to assess our skills.

At the end of the assessment period Step Ahead matched successful apprentices with managers. The whole process was really quick – I was recruited on the Friday and started just a few days later.

Learning on the job

I got placed in the pathology department as a medical laboratory assistant, with my manager, Cynthia. I am responsible for booking and labelling all the samples. It is a really important job as it is vital that these samples get to the right place at the right time. When I started I really didn’t know anything about the job, but my confidence has really grown. Now I have even worked in the blood transfusion department and I am setting my sights on a role as an associate practitioner there after I qualify.

One of the best things about this apprenticeship is that you really feel like a valuable part of the team. I feel so supported by both my manager and the team at StepAhead, who are both making sure I have plenty of opportunities to learn and progress. I’ve noticed in myself how I am more confident and a much better communicator since I have been on my apprenticeship.

If someone is considering an apprenticeship I would say that it is important to do your research. Find something that you are going to really enjoy because you will have so many opportunities to turn it in to a career. There is definitely going to be an apprenticeship opportunity out there that suits you. You might even find a passion for something that you didn’t know you had.”

Cynthia Savage, client services unit manager (pathology)

“Having an apprentice on my team is a really rewarding experience that has made such a positive difference to my team. It can sometimes be difficult to recruit to the more junior roles, as the staff don’t seem to stay in post for very long at that level. The apprenticeship scheme has helped us to overcome that problem as they are committed to the department for at least a year, but it has also been very rewarding for me as a manager.

It starts on the apprentice recruitment day, which is very much set up as a personal development day. Even the interview experience itself is of real value to the recruits. The 'speed dating' element works so well, as we know we are getting someone that has the right energy and fit for the team, whilst also knowing that the apprentice is excited by the job we are offering.

Supporting development

I love seeing my apprentices develop and grow over their time in my team. When Kenny started he was really lacking in confidence. I have seen him mature and change over the last year in to a highly respected member of my team. I’ve even had him running the client services department on a night shift recently!

So many of our apprentices are just looking for a foot in the door. They really want to learn and as a manager there are so many opportunities to support that. I love having a blank canvas in my team, especially when they are up for the challenge. It’s a fantastic feeling, knowing that you have given someone a career break. When I see them progress, and want to build their career with us, it’s really satisfying.

I would definitely recommend that managers consider an apprentice if the right vacancy exists. Not only will you resolve some of your staffing issues, but you will also find it challenges you as a manager too.”

If you are looking for an apprenticeship, or you are a manager looking to recruit please contact imperial.apprenticeships@nhs.net

More information about our apprenticeships can be found on our website

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