TO celebrate National Apprenticeship Week we put some of the hard working and dedicated apprentices at Southend Hospital under the microscope…

WHEN Jacob Edgington tells people he works in a nursery most assume he means he’s a gardener. But they would be wrong. Instead of growing plants the 21-year-old lad is busy nurturing young minds at the Ladybird Children’s Nursery based at Southend Hospital.

Jacob, who lives in Southend is currently on a children and young people’s workforce apprenticeship which means he’s one of only a small group of men who work with nursery age children today. But that just means he’s all the more loved by his young charges.

He said “It’s a bit of a surprise to some people initially when I tell them what I do, but then they get to see how good I am with the kids. The children really love the beard and give it a tug now and then!

“I love it here and wouldn’t change a thing, I’m just really proud that I’ve got this opportunity to make a really positive impact on these children’s lives.”

That sentiment is loudly echoed by Lynda Bartholomew, manager of Ladybird Nursery, who praised Jacob’s efforts, saying “Our staff and children benefit from his energy and enthusiasm, and from having a male role model in a sector which traditionally has a mainly female workforce.”

We tend to imagine apprentices as young men and women but Bryan Record, 46, knows that again this stereotype can often be wrong. Bryan is currently advancing his career thanks to his Level 3 apprenticeship in health and social care at Southend Hospital.

Bryan said: “Apprenticeships aren’t just for young people and if I’d not got this opportunity through my current hospital role I would not have gone on further, I would have just stayed doing what I was doing, it’s as simple as that.

“It’s great to know that the hospital is investing in both your future as an employee and that of the hospital.”

Conor Hall, 18, from Rayleigh found his apprenticeship role in the finance department by looking on the NHS jobs website. He said: “I could have gone to college or got a job; this is in the middle and is the best of both worlds as I’m earning and learning at the same time.

“I‘ve only been here since December but really feel part of the team, I’ve really grown in confidence and am doing everything from financial accounts to bank statements. It feels like an 18 month practical rather than just a work placement or learning from a book.”

Abbey Haynes, like Conor, is also based at Britannia House on the hospital site where she is on an intermediate business and administration apprenticeship.

The 16- year- old from Rochford applied for over 100 apprenticeships, but her determination paid off last November when she began her apprenticeship in the learning and development team.

She said: “I wanted to do an apprenticeship because of the money I could earn and learn at the same time. I’ve definitely grown in confidence. When I first started I was so scared. I think that was just the shock of the new.

“Mum and Dad love that I have a job and I love being able to go shopping with my mum. My nan, Joan, took me to the interview and when I got it I phoned her and she cried down the phone. They’ve all been so supportive.”

After she completes the Level 2 apprenticeship, which is equivalents to GCSE level, Abbey is keen to get her level 3 qualification which is equivalent to A-levels, after having got her first foot on the apprenticeship ladder. And she’s now the envy of her friends.

Abbey said: “Most of my friends have gone to college or sixth form and some of them are looking at an apprenticeship now, at the time they were telling me not to get one and look at them now. Obviously there is a lot of competition out there, so you have to apply for lots of different apprenticeships. I found this one through the national apprenticeship website and haven’t looked back. I’ve really grown in confidence.”

Apprenticeships at Southend Hospital are offered in partnership with Vocational Training Services , a Westcliff based company which has been offering training for more than 20 years.

Eileen Gallagher, the hospital’s talent for care coordinator, said: “The trust currently has 36 staff engaged on a variety of apprenticeships at intermediate, advanced and higher levels. The programmes include business administration, adult health & social care, clinical healthcare support, perioperative support and children and young people workforce. There are over 200 apprenticeship frameworks available, many of which would be suitable for clinical and non-clinical areas.

“And this number is only set to expand under Government directives but it is already something the trust is embracing with a positive impact on the hospital and those undertaking apprenticeships.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about apprenticeship opportunities at Southend Hospital should email Eileen at .

Echo: New career - Former dancer Kirstie Williams

LIFE doesn’t always turn out like we expect, Kirstie Williams is testament to this. When her dreams of making it as a professional dancer were dashed she opted for a career pathway she had never even considered before. Now she is dancing to a very different tune thanks to her apprenticeship at Southend Hospital.

The 19-year-old, from Eastwood was always going to be a dancer. It was her passion and something she’d worked at for 15 years. One torn cartilage and an operation later and that dream was shattered.

But now Kirstie is a rehabilitation assistant apprentice at the hospital and she’s found this change of direction has suited her perfectly. She now works with the stroke team as part of the year-long course, which sees her gaining a qualification and earning a wage as well. And in the current climate Kirstie really believes she has the best of both worlds.

She said: “I know it’s hard to find a job, I’ve been there so for me I just think it is great to be able to be earning, learning and getting a qualification all at the same time. It’s like doing it all under one roof.

“I’m really loving it. I may not be able to dance anymore but the care I got during my rehabilitation certainly influenced me to move in this new direction. I guess it’s my way of giving something back. It’s so rewarding when a patient goes home who couldn’t walk when they arrived here and they walk back to thank you. That’s so amazing.”

Within her role, which she started back in January, Kirstie has been shadowing everyone in the department from occupational therapy staff to physios and speech and language therapists.

Kirstie may be helping change people’s lives but this apprenticeship has already helped her change her life. She concluded: “It’s amazing being able to make a real difference, it is so rewarding and I really want to continue along this route.”