Like most of us, I always thought completing an apprenticeship was something you did at the start of your career. We’ve all heard how, if you want to get into a skilled trade while young, it is a great way of getting training on the job, meaning you earn while you learn.
Well things have changed. You can take an apprenticeship in a huge array of career choices now. And anyone – no matter their age – can take part. For me, as a 52-year-old mum of three taking an apprenticeship has been life changing as it means I am now doing a job I love mid-way through my career.
I realise for many women of my age, particularly if they have spent a great deal of time concentrating on bringing up a family instead of building a career, that this may seem daunting. That their confidence may get in the way. But I would say just go for it. After all, you don’t know what you can achieve until you achieve it.
I now work in a team as an Assistant Practitioner at Farnham Hospital in Surrey where we care for older patients and I know that what we all do makes a real difference to their lives. And that is such a great feeling.
On a personal level as well, my three sons are glowing with pride about me these days. That’s incredible. Before, I moved into healthcare I had worked in retail as a manager for high street chains such as Top Shop, Dorothy Perkins, Top Man and Warehouse.
At the time, I lived in Fleet in Hampshire, but after 20 years took a role as a healthcare assistant at nearby Frimley Hospital. My father had unexpectedly fallen ill and was transferred to Farnham hospital where he sadly passed away.
On my daily visits to Farnham Hospital I saw an opportunity for a role that came available so I applied. This would allow me to be closer to my mother who now, after the death of my father, unfortunately has to continue working into her retirement within the same hospital.
I got the job and, in 2017, saw the apprenticeship come up on Virgin Care’s website. I spoke to my manager and colleagues about it and they were all really supportive.
Some people may think I was pushing myself too hard. After all, I was a mum, I had moved to a new house and I wanted to be there for my mother.
But in reality my three sons were now grown up – so I wasn’t as busy as I used to be and I was feeling like I wanted to stretch myself. That’s why I applied. The role – as an Assistant Practitioner – meant that I would be involved in mainly clinical care doing tasks such as Comprehensive Geriatric Patient Assessments, helping and advising older people after something had happened to them such as a serious fall. I also do observations, take blood pressures and carry out ECG tests on people’s heart activity, in the hospital and in the community.
The new role meant I had to complete an Assistant Practitioner Foundation Degree, which took two years part time at the University of Derby. Obviously, doing a degree meant I had to study and do a great deal of academic work. And, as if that wasn’t enough, my partner and I decided – at the same time – to rebuild our home. When we moved back to Farnham we bought a bungalow, which needed quite a bit of work, as well as a big extension to fit everyone in.
So I think it is fair to say I was busy. I could come back from work on the day centre, knock down a wall, paint a ceiling, put up some tiles then sit down in my study late into the evening writing out an essay – all in my 50s.
Looking back, I would say to anyone else of my age thinking of whether they can make a change or improve their career that they should not be worried, it is really worth it, we spend so much of our time at work so making sure you love doing what you do is so important.
When it came to my graduation, which was at the University of Derby’s wonderful velodrome building, it was such a proud moment! Standing in front of my three sons and mother as I received my degree was one of the best times of my life. It was such a great feeling knowing they were there watching me. I also took my fathers picture with me as he would have been so proud as he always taught me there are no replays in life so be happy, and live each day like it’s your last.
I love my job, I love being able to care for our older patients, knowing I make a difference to their lives. And I would truly say to any woman my age who may be seeking to stretch themselves ….do it.
Jacqui is at gateway point now and preparing for the End Point Assessment of her Level 3 Senior Healthcare Worker Apprenticeship. She said, “From the first day my whole team have been supportive and encouraging. They want me to be the best I can be”.
Kim is currently halfway through her second year of the Level 5 Healthcare Assistant Practitioner apprenticeship. She said, “I would recommend this apprenticeship as a good opportunity to develop new skills and confidence.”
For this year’s National Apprenticeship week Sarah talks us through the challenges that learners have faced this year, and the benefits of apprenticeships for both the learners and their organisations.
Lead Nurse Amanda Pulford gives us an insight to what it’s like working in a prison.