Lance Gourley

Nursing apprenticeship ready to help plug NHS skills gap

At a time of ongoing national NHS staff shortages, the University of Sunderland hopes to boost north-east healthcare by developing a highly-skilled workforce through its Higher and Degree Apprenticeship programmes.

This week, as part of National Apprenticeship Week 2024 (Monday 5 February – Sunday 11 February), the University is shining a light on the inspirational work of its apprentices, partners and staff, while helping to plug the skills gap in the healthcare, leadership, digital and engineering sectors in Sunderland and the wider the north-east.

Lance Gourley has been balancing working as a healthcare assistant for South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust with studying a Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship at the University. The 32-year-old believes apprenticeships play a pivotal role in developing a skilled NHS workforce and filling the skills shortage.

Lance, from Murton, County Durham, said: “I worked as a healthcare assistant for four years before I began the apprenticeship in January 2021, so I already had a lot of knowledge and experience to bring to the programme and to my role as a nursing apprentice.  Tackling NHS staff shortages is vital in providing safe, effective patient care, which each and every colleague strives to provide, so I’d say to anyone thinking of doing this apprenticeship, just go for it. There is nothing to lose but potentially a lot to gain.”

During his studies, Lance received STAR award which is given by the South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust in recognition of the brilliant work apprentices do in making sure patients are given high-quality care.

Gemma Taylor, Workforce Development and Education Manager at the Trust, said: "We have a fantastic relationship with the University of Sunderland and opportunities such as the one Lance followed up proves there are lots of ways into working in the NHS. That's whether it's to become a nurse or any number of roles, on the frontline working with patients or in one of the many departments who play a part in running our organisation. The range of careers is huge.

"We hope National Apprenticeship Week helps those looking to take their next step think about how it could be right for them and welcome anyone who would like to find out more to get in touch with us."

Sue Brent, Head of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Sunderland, said: “We are delighted to see how well Lance is doing and I would encourage anyone thinking of entering healthcare as a career to consider the apprenticeship route.

“The University’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences works closely with its partner organisations and all of our apprenticeship programmes are delivered in close collaboration. This opportunity allows apprentices to gain hands on experience in the working environment but with support from the University academic teaching team as well as key staff in the workplace. Apprentices are paid to learn on the job and spend a percentage of time in other areas gaining experience as well as 20% of their time in off-the-job learning/study."

There are currently 386 students on the University’s Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship.

Professor Laura Stroud, Dean of Health Sciences and Wellbeing at the University of Sunderland, said: “Apprenticeships play a hugely important part in securing the future healthcare workforce, with apprentices having the opportunity to earn and learn whilst building skills, knowledge and experience. The insights they gain helps with their future career choices and creates strong relationships with employers.”

Since launching in 2016 with just a handful of employers, the University’s degree apprenticeship scheme has grown year on year. Now partnering with more than 100 organisations, the University is currently educating and training more than 930 apprentices working on programmes from Level 3 to degree level across a range of sectors and job roles.

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