Shahajan Miah completed his Business Administration Apprenticeship through the Trust’s Gateway Academy Apprenticeship programme in October 2017. He had been placed in the NHS London Procurement Partnership, hosted via Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust. He says:
“I had a contact at the local job centre who knew about the apprenticeship programme and supported me to apply. I thought it was an excellent way of getting into the NHS. I had spent two years at university and was over £20,000 in debt, and I felt that I wanted to try something else without getting deeper into debt.
“The main concern I had was my age. Most apprenticeships were only available to 16-24 year olds, and I was over this age bracket.”
Shahajan attended and passed through the recruitment and selection process, and was accepted onto the programme in October 2016.
“I received immense support from my line manager and work stream lead, who were inspirational and gave me all the support I needed to succeed and learn. If I was unsure of anything, I would ask and they would only be too happy to oblige. They made me feel part of the team, comfortable and I never felt like an outsider. That gave me the confidence to perform on the job. Small gestures go such a long way. On my study days, the tutors supported us by going through each unit and giving us additional help when required.
“The main challenges I faced were going into a new environment and settling back into a 9-5 job. I was nervous changing careers and kept on thinking “what if”, but the support provided put me at ease very quickly.
Benefits as an apprentice
“The main benefits of doing an apprenticeship are that you can earn while you learn, receive a personalised mentor and hands on training. When I started, I was assigned a mentor and a work buddy who showed me around and was always on hand. They helped me if I had any issues, felt uneasy or was just having a bad day. I always had someone to talk to. That was a nice feeling, it showed people really cared about my learning and progress. The pace of the whole apprenticeship scheme is very manageable and there is no stress involved. You work in real life situations and experience what working in the field feels like. You also have the opportunity to build a wide network of contacts that can help you develop in your career or as an individual.
“I learnt so many new additional skills that I felt were transferable if I decided to move on after the course. For example, I learnt how to edit and publish webpages, diary management skills, analysis of data and reporting.
“I enjoyed learning about procurement and what it is, what it entails and found out I liked it. Being in procurement is so self-fulfilling – although it is non-clinical, you are helping the NHS behind the scenes every day, bringing in added value and saving money which in turn can be used to benefit the patients in other areas. I like to think I had a positive impact on the team. I think I showed them that I am capable of doing the work, someone they can rely on and trust to get the task done, and that I was an individual who takes initiative.
“Doing an apprenticeship doesn’t necessarily tie you to that particular company – if you start and feel that the placement is not for you or if you have any issues on the apprenticeship, there are multiple people who are available to support you to choose the right pathway for you, even if that means leaving that particular company or placement.
“At the moment there is a market for procurement professionals in the industry which made me think seriously about a career within this industry.”
“Right now, I am on staff bank working for the NHS London Procurement Partnership in the Estates team. There is a possibility of a higher banded job that I will apply for. I would like to stay on and hopefully get this permanent role and start working towards my CIPS qualification, which would be another great achievement.
“Apprenticeships at the moment are the best way of getting yourself into full time employment, especially in blue chip companies and healthcare. Nowadays the job market is very competitive, and larger organisations are offering apprenticeships to recruit new fresh talent.
“Doing an apprenticeship in London has been wonderful, but the cost of living is high. Doing an apprenticeship can sometimes feel like you’re doing double the work, because you are working full-time but also have to focus on the academic side of things to gain your qualification. It is all worthwhile in the end because the benefits outweigh all of your hard work.
“I hope that there will be some changes in apprenticeship salary as it is very low at the moment compared to the London or national living wage. I feel a lot of young people will struggle to come on board and miss out on the opportunity, which will be a massive shame since it is a great scheme and does so much good. I hope in the future they can raise the salary of apprenticeships so everyone can benefit; both employers and employees.”
Shahajan also had the opportunity to work with Amanda Pritchard, the CEO of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust at the recent Business Planning launch on 2nd November 2017.
He says of this experience: “This event was one of the highlights of the year. I couldn’t believe I was paired up with Amanda Pritchard on the judging panel. She was so brilliant and made me feel at ease and comfortable, always asking me what my opinion was. I felt my opinion counted for something and meant something which is very self-fulfilling. Having those moments to spend with her is an inspiration in itself. I enjoyed learning about the work all of the directorates have done over the last 12 months and continue to do. We have to look after our NHS. Working hard with others and building stable relationships is very important, now more than ever, especially if one wants to move forward in their career and help the Trust achieve its goals.”
Shahajan made such an impression on his department during the apprenticeship that his manager nominated him for an NHS Unsung Hero award. This award is a national award that recognises the contribution of non-medical and non-clinical staff who are often overlooked in the NHS, and celebrates those that go above and beyond the call of duty. Shahajan was nominated for the Apprentice of the Year 2018 category.
His manager, Laura Whitworth, praised how quickly Shahajan learned the basic concepts of procurement and how to work in a professional and busy environment. She says, in her nomination that Shahajan “got used to taking phone calls and dealing with customer queries very quickly. He treats our customers and suppliers with respect and has had to deal with some difficult and challenging telephone calls which he has done very professionally.
“Shahajan has always been willing to take on tasks, no matter what they are and completes them very quickly, carefully and efficiently. I don’t think he has ever said no to anything we have asked him to do. He is always willing to help others including those from other teams where he can.
“Shahajan has taken on some big pieces of work. For example, he was asked to support the corporate process for managing income due from suppliers, and he delivered significant improvements. In one instance, he had to have an ongoing and difficult conversation with the supplier to explain their contractual requirements under the procurement framework, and the team will shortly receive an outstanding £400k from this supplier. This year, Shahajan is looking at bringing in an income of £1.4m to the Trust as a result of his work.”
Of his nomination, Shahajan says he was surprised as he did not expect it, but was very grateful to his managers who took the time out to write the application.
“I am now working to support more recent and younger apprentices in their work, in their understanding of procurement and what we do for the NHS and the wider public sector.
The Trust values mean more to me now than any time before, and I am so grateful to have taken part in all the opportunities presented to me.”
The awards ceremony for the NHS Unsung Heroes will take place in February 2018.