HEFT Work Experience Initiative


19 / 04 / 2013

Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT) introduced a work experience programme that engaged with a local school 

The Organisation

Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT) is one of the largest Foundation Trusts in the country, with over 11,000 employees providing general and specialist hospital and community care for the people of East Birmingham, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield, Tamworth and South Staffordshire.  HEFT prides itself on having services at the heart of its communities, allowing people to be treated as close to home as possible.

What we did and why

The Learn Lead Workforce Development Strategy (2009-2014), produced by the Faculty of Education, outlines our vision for developing a workforce representative of our local community.  The Six C's Strategy outlines the steps required to provide this workforce, which include contact, confidence, career exposure, access competence, workplace competence and NHS career development.

The Healthcare Careers Development Unit (HCDU) is a delivery arm of the Faculty of Education, whose primary focus is to provide education for the Wider Healthcare Workforce, which is predominantly made up of staff within Agenda for Change bands 1-4. HCDU is committed to providing job opportunities for the local population and has committed resources to widening participation through the provision of high quality work experience placements. 

In 2012 HCDU conducted a review of the delivery of work experience across HEFT, which confirmed that delivery was both fit for purpose and enabled young people from across Birmingham and Solihull to gain an understanding of NHS careers, whilst providing them with the experiences needed to make an informed decision about their future.  However, the evaluation concluded that whilst we facilitated around 700 placements per year, these were not always linked to real work aspirations, as a significant number were sourced via friends and family.  As a result this selection method was likely to reflect class and gender inequalities.  Heartlands Hospital is situated in an area of particularly high unemployment and it was clear that more work needed to be done to promote work experience opportunities to local students from socially deprived backgrounds who did not have the advantage of parental networks.

During 2012, HEFT agreed to support a local school in their bid to build a Studio College on land that bordered Heartlands Hospital.  This bid was successful and a vocational school for three hundred 14-19 year olds will open in September 2013.  HEFT made an annual commitment to provide 60 vocational placements for pupils at this college to support their education and help build our future workforce.  This agreement led to the pilot of a new approach to work experience provision that met the needs of young people, regardless of their social background or parental status.

How we did it

At the beginning of the current academic year, HCDU commenced a pilot programme with a cohort of 10 sixth form students studying for a BTEC Level 3 in Health and Social Care.  HCDU were asked to support their course by providing work experience in a clinical setting one day a week.  Since work experience is not a mandatory element of this course, it is unusual for health organisations to offer placements to students studying for these qualifications.

Students were allocated placements in which they were likely to come into contact with patients who had stable conditions or required rehabilitation.  Conversely, care was given to not expose the students to patients requiring complex care, and those during an acute phase of their illness.  Students were matched to placements dependant on their future career aspirations and, in order to ensure they were actively involved in the process, students signed a contract, were screened by occupational health, and were issued with a job description for their role. 

Prior to commencement of their placements, students attended the Trust's Corporate Induction Programme, which included all the mandatory training elements clinical staff are required to complete.  Students were allocated a local supervisor who was responsible for their placement activity and students were also required to complete a reflective journal to record their experiences during the placement.

Results and next steps

An evaluation of the programme after six months identified some key themes.  The students stated that they felt ‘scared’ or ‘worried ‘prior to going out on placement.  Many lacked confidence and described themselves as ‘nervous’ and ‘shy'. Unfortunately this was perceived by some supervisors as a ‘lack of enthusiasm’ or being ‘disinterested’.  However, six months into programme all the students felt they had grown in confidence  and gained practical experience which had given them a better understanding of both their qualification and the NHS.  In addition, supervisors  also stated that the students communication skills had drastically improved during this period.

‘It was a life changing opportunity giving us an insight into the world of work, getting the chance to work with professionals and experience what the world of work is like. I also got to see how different professionals come together to give care to one patient, seeing this has made me appreciate the different specialisms available in the Health and Social Care sector – thank you.’  Anisha Moseley, Sixth Form Student

Feedback from the school identified a link between the placements and an improvement in the  quality of student's coursework. The course tutor felt that the placements made a significant difference to how students interpreted some of the core elements of the syllabus, such as equality and diversity, and allowed the students to reflect on  real examples of care situations in a  classroom setting.

‘This is a fantastic opportunity where 6th Form Students are enabled to experience first-hand the world of work both in a professional and a Health and Social Care environment. Quite often their coursework relies on them to connect policies, procedures and good working practices from a variety of health and social care environments. At this age students have not been able to experience different work place settings so by having the placement in hospitals has empowered them to deliver coursework of a high quality. Furthermore, student’s transferable skills are enhanced as well as their experience and appreciation of a working environment which enables them to make informative and firm decisions in their chosen NHS career.’ Mrs Sarah Dean-Richards, Course Tutor

There were some learning points from the review.  The HCDU team and placement supervisors underestimated the amount of ongoing supervision and direction the students would require and this caused pinch points in the event of services pressures.  This led to students stating that at times the staff were ‘too busy’ or they felt ‘left out’.  Furthermore, the supervisors were also frustrated at times by students not appearing fully briefed or prepared for their placement.  The students felt their placements would be more productive if they were set targets specific to their ward/area, which is something which will be considered in the future.

Tips for other Trusts

  • Preparation is key to the delivery of a successful placement
  • Ensure the establishment of clear placement objectives and that everyone understands the duties students can participate in
  • Treat the students like real employees and don't tolerate activities that you would not expect from your own staff (e.g. use of mobile phones; adhere to uniform policy; reporting absence; punctuality) 
  • Think carefully about where you place under 18s and ensure there are safe systems of work in place to minimise risks to health and safety
  • Ongoing support from your work experience lead is essential for roll out of a successful programme

Through this work experience programme HEFT has made a clear commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility, engaging with the community and investing in the workforce of the future.  All of these things are vitally important in attracting future candidates with the right values and behaviours to deliver quality patient care.

Further information and contact details

For further information please contact Sara Jaskiewicz, Associate Head of Learning and Development HCDU at sara.jaskiewicz@heartofengland.nhs.uk or telephone 0121 424 4195


Latest Tweets

Why Register?

Great reasons to register with NHS Employers

  • A personalised website
    Manage your profile and select topics of interest to you
  • Access your dashboard
    Bookmark useful content to help you quickly find what you're looking for
  • Get involved
    Contribute to our Talking Points discussions, comment on and rate our webpages
  • Keep up to date
    Receive the latest newsletters and media summaries

Sounds great, what next?

Register Now

Not now, I will register later

Log In