Business as usual for Swansea Bay Apprentice Academy

It’s a case of business as usual for Swansea Bay’s Apprentice Academy following a quiet few years during Covid.

The ground-breaking, award winning academy was the first of its kind in Wales when it opened its doors in 2016 and was named Large Employer of the Year in the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru in just two years later.

Now the pandemic years are behind it, the academy is now gearing up its intake of new recruits.

Picture: Apprentice Academy graduate Cerys Parsons

Its aim is to attract the best talent locally and to enable people to gain the necessary skills and experience for clinical roles such as healthcare support workers as well as non-clinical roles, ranging from business administration to IT.

Apprenticeships are also available for existing staff to upskill, with programmes such as leadership and management and digital courses offered at no additional cost to them.

The academy has teamed up with Gower College Swansea and Neath Port Talbot College to offer classroom-based learning alongside workplace experience.

Liam Jones, a member of Swansea Bay’s learning and development team, said it was important to ensure youngsters realised there is an alternative to costly university degrees when eyeing up a good career.

He said: “Part of our focus at the moment is engaging with the local communities. There’s some fantastic frameworks out there that a lot of people are not aware of what we actually offer inside Swansea Bay.

“We are going into schools to encourage the younger people to start looking at apprenticeships slightly differently. Normally, a lot of people look at apprenticeships and they initially think of carpentry and engineering, those sort of hands on trades, but there’s so many different types of apprenticeships available.”

Apprenticeships also carry the added bonus of not leaving you saddled with student debt.

Liam said: “Apprenticeships are fantastic because you’re able to earn and learn at the same time.

“What you find with people who go to university, they’ve got all the qualification, all the knowledge there, but no experience behind it. So this is a great way that you’ll get that experience.

“You’ll be able to earn at the same time. In Swansea Bay we’ve uplifted our apprentice wage to the National Living Wage £10.42 an hour. So it’s really good. Really competitive.

“You don’t end up with that debt from university and then you’re able to progress into other roles then. So it’s a fantastic development opportunity.”

Ruth Evans, Swansea Bay’s learning and development project manager, said: “We were the first apprentice academy in the NHS in Wales when we started in October 2016. Since then we’ve had over 300 apprentices across lots of different departments from IT to our translation service.

“Obviously during Covid, there wasn’t the ability for staff to support them in the workplace as much, so our recruitment took a bit of a dive.

“But this year we’ve started to do engagement events in Singleton, Neath Port Talbot and Morriston hospitals and we have just taken on 10 apprentice health care support workers.

“We are also looking to take on people in mental health and learning disabilities roles as well.

“There’s been so much staff turnover, we wanted to let managers know what we can offer them and for them to consider recruiting apprentices.”

The aim is to make Swansea Bay the local organisation and employer of choice and to offer apprenticeships to all ages

Ruth said: “Hopefully Swansea Bay is a more attractive employer to apply to work for.

“We’re hoping to create a pathway so if somebody comes in at level one, they’ve got the opportunity to progress and build a career.

“That’s what we’re promoting – you’re not just coming in to be an apprentice for a year and then that’s it. You can come in and there’s an opportunity to progress through your career should you want one.”

Swansea Bay Senior Digital Communications Officer, Cerys Parsons is one of the earlier apprentices who has since come through the system, and moved up the ranks, earning three promotions along the way.

She said: “The Apprentice Academy is a great way of taking your first steps into an NHS career and meeting other people who are also starting out. I would highly recommend anyone to join the academy, whether you’re looking to start an NHS career or you’re an existing employee looking to upskill.

“I joined the academy back in November 2018 as a business admin apprentice for the communications department. After a year I moved on to be a digital marketing higher apprentice.

“It was an amazing experience to be able to work and gain experience in a fast paced NHS team as well as learning the skills I needed to excel within the organisation.

“The academy were always supportive throughout my journey. They were able to offer advice and guidance, especially when I was nearing the end of my apprenticeship, including securing a permanent role in the health board.

“If it wasn’t for the academy supporting me at the start, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

For details on joining the apprentice academy visit our website here.

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