The importance of cooperation between training provider and employer cannot be underestimated for delivering positive apprenticeship outcomes.
Frontline mental health care can often be a matter of life or death, especially in West Cumbria where the suicide rate is one of the highest in the UK. It’s essential, therefore, that the people on the front line are equipped and able to do the job – which makes recruitment and training a fundamental requirement.
Courtney Curr is just 18, but as a Business Admin apprentice with the West Cumbrian branch of MIND, based at the charity’s Workington office, she is usually the first point of contact for those in need and those at risk.
After leaving sixth form college a year early, Courtney was initially attracted to an apprenticeship with MIND because of her own experiences with mental health issues in her family. Her route to the position has been through a Business and Administration Apprenticeship, run through Lakes College and funded through The Edge.
The initial Level 2 qualification has been combined with in-house training at MIND, under its director Dr Brian Campbell.
“Our first point of contact on the telephone – for often very distressed people – is Courtney, and she handles that with a maturity that I cannot praise highly enough.” Brian says.
“Her record to date is one hour and thirty-eight minutes on a phone call, talking to a very distressed, self-harming person. Now, that takes a lot of skill – but also a lot of real commitment.
MIND is very keen on addressing its skills gap problem, and as a result, has decided that every two years they will sponsor selected people for a university business degree.
“What you have to remember is that during the war we took 17 and 18-year-olds and taught them to fly Spitfires. We forget how talented 18-year-olds can be but, they often don’t have the opportunity to channel that talent.”
The Level 2 Business and Administration Apprenticeship programme is aimed at people who want to develop skills to become a future team leader or business manager. It involves practical knowledge of more complex administrative support, such as supporting meetings and events or retrieving information.
The key to a successful apprenticeship programme is input from the employer, and Lakes College Training Officer Amanda Rooney’s job has been to liaise between Courtney, Brian and the college itself.
Courtney’s progress with the support of her employer MIND is a great example of how The Edge programme is supporting individuals and employers develop the skilled people needed here in West Cumbria.
She says: “It’s been a three-way plan, which initially involved a good discussion between me and Courtney about what her role was, and with Brian who explained what his plan was, and how he was going to develop Courtney.
“For the first three months, it was a case of building up Courtney’s knowledge of the company, getting to know Brian and understanding the specific office skills she would require in her position.
“This means Courtney gets the skills and the background knowledge she needs, and we are there to give them all the underpinning knowledge, planning and so on. The aim is to help apprentices develop not just knowledge about that particular company, but business and administration in general.”
The Level 2 Business and Administration Apprenticeship programme is aimed at people who want to develop skills to become a future team leader or business manager.
In January this year, Courtney successfully completed Level 2 and is now working with Amanda towards completing her Level 3 qualification. After that, there may be an opportunity for her to go to university to complete a full business degree.
“With Level 3 we want to get Courtney thinking of how much depth she needed in the job, with a long-term goal of going to university,” Amanda says. “To be fair, Courtney is a really good student. I can’t reiterate how much she has committed. Without the commitment of the apprentice, then you are going to struggle.”
Indeed, such is the impression Courtney has made in her short time with MIND, her university course could be sponsored by one of the charity’s local funding partners.
Brian says: “This particular organisation is very keen on addressing its skills gap problem, and as a result, has decided that every two years they will sponsor selected people for a university business degree.
“Having seen Courtney in action over the last six months they were hugely impressed and have offered to sponsor her: that means all her fees, travel, training, books and mentoring through university.”
Courtney is understandably delighted, but says she plans to stay on and complete her Level 3 qualifications while continuing her work with MIND. “Going to university would be a great opportunity, but right now working for MIND is something I want to do and I really enjoy it,” she says. “Brian and Amanda have been incredibly helpful, it has been a great experience.”
As far as Brian is concerned, Courtney’s success is a glowing testament to the partnership between MIND and Lakes College and to the apprentice programme in general.
“I cannot tell you how thrilled I am with the way this has worked,” he says. “There are probably hundreds of 17 and 18-year-olds out there, with the same talent as Courtney, and if they could see this as a way to kick off their careers then it really is brilliant. I think the college needs terrific commendation for the work they have done on behalf of the organisation.”
What you have to remember is that during the war we took 17 and 18-year-olds and taught them to fly Spitfires. We forget how talented 18-year-olds can be but, they often don’t have the opportunity to channel that talent.