Birmingham Children's Hospitals - Aspire programme

Theresa Nelson

Theresa Nelson, chief officer for workforce development talks about the benefits that offering a range of employability opportunities has brought to both the local communities and the staff at Birmingham Children's Hospital.

Our hospital’s 3,700-strong workforce cares for more than 90,000 children and young people from across the country each year. We’re proud of what we do and the fact we are very much part of the community, touching the lives of many families.

A few years ago, we began to look at how we could strengthen that community role by supporting young people on their journeys into employment. Following a huge amount of hard work from our education team, who worked with internal and external partners, the ground-breaking Aspire programme was officially launched in December 2014.

We already did a lot to support the training and development for 14-25 year-olds, but by bringing together internships, traineeships, work experience and apprenticeship opportunities, along with a bespoke employability programme for young people with learning disabilities, we have developed a really clear offer and improved access to opportunities for many disadvantaged groups.

Like anything that’s totally new we’ve had to learn along the way but the aim of supporting and, importantly, championing children and young people, has been the driving force that’s made Aspire such a success.

Over the last 15 months more than 300 young people from across the West Midlands have benefited from a wide range of work experience placements with us. We’ve welcomed more than 100 apprentices to our teams, working in a range of departments including radiology, physiotherapy, fundraising, IT and education, while our graduate internship programme is now one of the largest in the NHS.

We’ve supported 15 young people with learning disabilities on work experience placements and we’re proud that nine of them have secured paid employment at the hospital; very much becoming part of Team BCH.

The story has been similar when it comes to those on the Aspire apprenticeship and internship schemes. More than 80 per cent - equipped with important skills and knowledge - have found permanent employment here or elsewhere in the NHS.

So, this is great but what are the benefits for us? Well, there are many. As an organisation at the heart of Birmingham we want to make a positive contribution to help young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, on their personal development and career journeys. Some have been patients with us and are able to provide important insight into how we might improve services for our families.

Importantly, our workforce has been inspired and strengthened by having a driven and ambitious set of young people from backgrounds that better reflect the communities we serve each and every day.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have our Aspire work recognised nationally and the programme’s first anniversary was marked by us being named Youth Friendly Large Employer of the Year by Youth Employment UK.

It’s fair to say we’re all very proud of our young people and their supporters, but we’re always looking to make things even better. This is why we are developing our offer to include e-mentoring and support for looked after children. The exciting journey is going to continue!

To find out more about Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s Aspire programme visit

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