Mother and son become part of the NHS family through its apprenticeship scheme

A man and a woman smiling. They are wearing NHS lanyards.A mother and son have become part of the NHS family after completing its apprenticeship scheme – with both graduating on the same day.

It is National Apprenticeship Week and mother and son Andrea and Zac Trewhela are fulfilling their ambitions after graduating from Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s apprenticeship programme.

The NHS is the nation’s biggest trainer of apprentices, with more than 20,000 starting last year.

Apprentices are a crucial part of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan and one of NHS England’s aims is to triple the number being trained by 2030. Achieving this will see apprentices making up more than one in five new recruits.

A recent graduation event celebrated the achievements of students following years of hard work. It was an especially poignant moment for Zac and his mum Andrea as they shared the special day with each other, and their loved ones.

Andrea has worked as a community nurse for several years and has now achieved the Masters level qualification as a district nurse.

a man and a woman in graduation robes, smiling.She said: “I felt really proud. When I found out Zac was going to be graduating on the same day, I thought I am not going to get that opportunity again. I just wanted to be there for him, and it was really lovely to see him graduate. I had that proud mum moment when I watched him walk across the stage.

“The apprenticeship was amazing. It was very different, because you have all your apprenticeship standards to meet alongside the educational modules side of the course. There are off the job hours you must complete and there is an option to do a placement in the last year.

“When you have the opportunity to step outside your day job it opens a whole new avenue. It has re-enlightened my interest in research and from my presentation in the second year I am following that on in the workplace as an actual project trial. I am now thinking about doing the research module to take it even further. You never stop learning and it has been a fabulous course for me.”

Zac has just completed his 3-year registered nurse (mental health) degree apprenticeship and is now working for the Trust as a mental health nurse. He is based at Camborne and Redruth Community Hospital (Basset unit), where he is part of the dementia and older people’s mental health community team.

He said: “It was a proud day not just for myself, but also getting that opportunity to share the experience with my mum. My dad was there as well, and my nan, as well as my fiancé, Charlie. It was really special.

“The team I am in are very supportive. They are easy to talk to if I have any questions. From the beginning my team manager set out the role and that has allowed me not to feel overwhelmed with the tasks I am doing. I could not have asked for a much better start with the team.”

Becky McSorley, Lead Practice Educator, said: “It has been a real privilege to have been involved in their academic journeys and they both richly deserve their success.

“I am so pleased that our apprenticeship offering has enabled Zac and Andrea, and a further 150 other staff to achieve a range of qualifications to support their career progression as well as enhance our service delivery.

“We currently have 196 staff on their apprenticeship pathways with more to start on October cohorts. They are a great way to enable our current staff to achieve career focussed and employer developed qualifications linked to their job roles, as well as attracting new staff into the organisation with career development pathways.”

Having previously graduated to become a community nurse in 2005, Andrea enrolled in the programme to complete her Masters as a district nurse.

Apprenticeships offer routes into many of the more than 350 NHS careers, meaning people can “earn while they learn” – working for their local NHS, but without having to go to university first.

This includes a range of higher or degree apprenticeships (equivalent to foundation, full Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees), including nursing.

And the Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeship pilot, due to be launched this year, is the first of its kind in the world and an important step forward in helping to attract a wider range of candidates to medicine. It will initially be delivered with three Higher Education Institutes.

NHS apprenticeships also include a variety of entry-level roles including support staff – helping employers attract talent from local communities and ensuring people from all backgrounds get the chance to pursue a rewarding career.

With the increased focus on data and move to electronic patient records there is also a focus on digital apprenticeships to attract new talent into tech roles in the NHS, with opportunities ranging from Data Technician to Artificial Intelligence Data Specialist.

Professor Mark Radford, Director of Long Term Workforce Plan Delivery and Education, and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer at NHS England, said: “Apprentices are at the heart of our Long Term Workforce Plan, to put staffing on a sustainable footing and improve patient care.

“Apprenticeships are a fantastic tool, not only to attract new talent to the NHS but also to develop the skills of the existing workforce.

“Our ambition for apprenticeships is to continue to build on the fantastic success of the expansion to date and provide an alternative route to careers such as nursing and Allied Health Professions. Working with UCAS from 2025 young people will also be able to apply for apprenticeships at the same time as traditional degree programmes.”

Health Minister Andrew Stephenson said: “I am delighted to see the NHS has emerged as the country’s top trainer of apprentices – with over 20,000 starting last year – showing just how many people continue to value a career in the health service.

“Apprentices are an integral part of the NHS’ Long Term Workforce Plan. We’re committed to boosting training for clinical staff through apprenticeships over the coming years, as we continue to deliver long term change for a brighter future.

“The introduction of the ground breaking Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeship will further widen participation from under-represented backgrounds — inspiring more people to pursue their dreams while allowing them to earn while they learn.”

Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Robert Halfon said: “The NHS serves the nation’s health needs every single day and apprenticeships are a crucial way for the health service to get the staff it vitally needs. NHS England is one of our Top 100 apprentice employers, and embraces both apprenticeships and T Levels as great ways to get skilled healthcare workers.

“Apprenticeships are crucial to giving people from all backgrounds the chance to climb the ladder of opportunity and it’s fantastic news that they plan to recruit one in five of their employees as apprentices by 2030. The NHS understand the apprenticeship levy and use it well, and I hope more employers follow their lead and experience the benefits of apprentices for themselves.”

Jennifer Coupland, chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE), said: “It’s brilliant to see that so many people are reaping the benefits of world class apprenticeships, designed by employers. They are popular across the country and with a really good variety of occupations.”

More information on NHS apprenticeships is available here: NHS apprenticeships | NHS Health Careers