Former Walsall Hospitals apprentice Katy Groves

Apprentices working for the NHS in the West Midlands are helping to bring fresh talent and diversity to the sector.

According to the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), Primary Care Trusts in the region employed 1454 apprentices in 2009. Of these, just over half were recorded as being under the age of 25, helping the NHS to tackle the ticking time bomb of its aging work force.

As well as being fundamental to dealing with significant demographic challenges, Ricky Manton-Leigh, assistant director of learning and workforce development at NHS Birmingham East and North, which delivers best practice in the employment of apprentices, believes apprentices also deliver huge benefits to their communities.

"Before we developed our Apprenticeship scheme five years ago, it was evident that our workforce did not reflect the area in which we work and this is vital for an organisation such as ours which works so closely with the local community," said Manton-Leigh.

"In the past five years we have employed 120 apprentices and this has increased diversity and brought new talent and skills to our workforce. Ideas generated by our apprentices in a recent challenge week are now being developed by our board of directors – showing the real impact apprentices can have.

"Employing apprentices is also helping us to tackle one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS, and one which all PCTs must address - that of an ageing workforce."

Former Walsall Hospitals apprentice Katy Groves, who now works as a discharge liaison nurse, said: "Before starting the apprenticeship I knew I wanted to be a nurse, but did not know what the different roles involved and I used the apprenticeship as an opportunity to help me decide and get a better understanding of the industry. During my time as an apprentice I had the opportunity to work alongside physio and occupational therapists, observe tests and deliver personal care."

Mark Ingram, vocational programme manager at Walsall Hospitals, added: "Katy is an example of what you can achieve with an Apprenticeship and the real benefits apprentices can be to the healthcare sector. This is just the start of Katy's career and we hope to see her continue to succeed within the organisation and become a role-model to other apprentices. Walsall Manor Hospital employs 20 apprentices every year, from a variety of backgrounds, and considers them to be a vital part of our workforce."

NAS has confirmed that the West Midlands is on target to recruit a further 1722 apprentices in 2010/11 into the healthcare sector. 

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