A fresh look at apprenticeships

08 Feb 2024

It’s National Apprenticeship Week (NAW), from 5 to 11 February, when we celebrate the world of possibilities that apprenticeships provide to both trainees and employers, not least right here in SEL ICS, where we’re actively involved in recruiting apprentices — from our communities and from within the organisation — and reaping fantastic benefits in the process.

This year’s NAW theme is ‘Skills for life’ and focuses on the positive, long-term effects of apprenticeships for everyone – regardless of their age, personal circumstances, or career to date – and no one embodies this message more than Kelly Bergess.

Headshot of Kelly Bergess
Kelly Bergess, Lived Experience Practitioner

Kelly, who is currently a Lived Experience Practitioner (LXP) at Greenwich Community Mental Health Rehabilitation and Enablement Service (CMHRES) is about to embark on a Senior Support apprenticeship after working for many years as a qualified baker at Sainsbury’s supermarket.

She explains what led her to take her career in a new direction and what her long-term plans are:

“I went through a divorce two years ago and decided to change my whole life, and I looked into different employment. Someone suggested a hospital admin job which I do part-time and last year I started out as a Peer Engagement Facilitator, then I became an LXP.

“I heard recently about the senior support apprenticeship which I decided I’d love to do, so the goal now is to complete that, then do a nurse associate apprenticeship, then do my top up nursing degree and then a master’s degree in nursing.”

While Kelly admits the NHS is “quite a change” from Sainsbury’s, the people skills she acquired there as a baker in a public-facing job have transferred well into her new role; “I’m still working with people in the community and in my job before, there was always someone talking to me about their problems or the good things that had happened to them, so it’s not totally different now. So, yeah, it’s good!”

As Oxleas’ Trust-wide Lead on Apprenticeships, Nigel Hogg admits to being “evangelical about apprenticeships” and he can regularly be seen promoting their benefits at recruitment fairs and careers days in a variety of venues – from town halls to football stadiums!

Headshot of Nigel Hogg
Nigel Hogg, Oxleas’ Trust-wide Lead on Apprenticeships

Speaking at the Greenwich Apprenticeship Summit in Woolwich, Nigel shared his enthusiasm for apprenticeships and his thoughts on why they’re so beneficial to the SEL ICS and our communities:

“Everyone is a potential employee, so I’m always looking to recruit more people, wherever I am. In fact, if you cut me in two, I probably have the word ‘apprentice’ written through me!”

According to Nigel, apprenticeships offer a “spectrum of opportunities” to all age groups and his oldest recruit is a 61-year-old woman, whom he met at his local shopping centre and managed to persuade to become a nursing apprentice.

Last summer, after having heard one of his regular ‘apprentice talks’ to children and young people at Charlton Athletic FC’s Summer School, Nigel was flooded with enquiries from parents and staff about how they could join the NHS via an apprenticeship.

“People don’t like the apprentice tag, especially older people, but I explain that apprenticeships are a stepping stone, they’re a way of upskilling you to do the job you want to do.  That usually changes their minds.”

Get more information on careers and apprenticeships at the South East London ICS here.