Train the trainer - reflections blog

Courtney Sherwell

NHS Employers' Apprenticeships for All programme is currently being rolled out to 20 pilot trusts to upskill line managers in inclusive recruitment. The ‘train the trainer’ approach means each individual will train 200 managers.

Here, and in future blogs, Courtney Sherwell from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust shares her trainer journey. 

I was interested in the Apprenticeships for All programme for several reasons.

Firstly, I’ve been managing apprenticeship programmes at Guy’s and St Thomas’ for the last four years and developed previous programmes to award-winning status.

Secondly, I work part time as a British Sign Language interpreter, and I’ve seen first-hand through the Deaf community how closed the workforce can be to disabled candidates.

Thirdly, I struggle with my own mental health, suffering from depression and anxiety. So I recognise how, for some, this can be a huge barrier not only into employment, but in staying in employment.

This is why, on a personal level, the Apprenticeships for All programme is so important to me: it helps organisations improve their recruitment practices to give disabled candidates the opportunity to find steady, paid employment. It also breaks down the stigmas associated with physical and mental disabilities and recognises that people with illness or disability can still be productive, able employees, capable of productivity and service improvement.

The training that myself and the other delegates received from NHS Employers was extremely valuable, and it was inspiring to see my fellow trainers fully engaged and eager to promote tangible change for disabled candidates across their respective organisations.

I am about to roll out the Apprenticeships for All programme to my trust. What I’m currently struggling with is how to reach the line managers that the training is aimed at. So far, we’ve been advertising for about a month, and have not seen the take-up we would have liked – we are a huge organisation after all.

But I’ve gained the support of the chief executive and the communications team, and we’re working on plans to increase the visibility of the programme by linking it to our Big Conversation, which formed as a result of the NHS Staff Survey. The Big Conversation supports teams to have discussions that can make a real difference to how we do things across the organisation, and from the staff survey results, we know there is room for improvement on equality, diversity and inclusion.

The main thing I hope to gain from being involved in the programme is to have other managers reconsider their unconscious biases when it comes to recruiting disabled candidates.

It is something I passionately believe in and I’ve been lucky to support some exceptional candidates with disabilities, including mental health issues, profound deafness and autism. I have seen them stay and progress in their roles within the trust and if I can impart my enthusiasm, passion and genuine belief in this programme to our trust, I will consider my job well done!

We will be following Courtney's journey delivering the Apprenticeships for All training over the coming months.

Find out more about the Apprenticeships for All programme and how to support disabled apprentices. 


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