It’s impossible to avoid the news about the challenges key workers are facing as the Covid-19 pandemic grips the UK, particularly for those in health and social care settings.
Far less attention has been paid to all the apprentices and learners who have been required to step up to the plate in the most demanding of circumstances, juggling family commitments, studying for new qualifications and learning on the job at the same time.
Take, for example, Sam*, who is having to deal with the death of her manager while supporting a deputy manager who is new to the role. This would be a challenge for anyone, let alone someone who was training for a new role. But Sam has not only continued to support the residents in her care home but has also made a special effort to provide some level of normality by recreating favourite outings they are currently unable to attend. She has set up baking days for those who would usually attend cookery classes, a clay area for anyone who attended pottery classes, and even discos for all to enjoy.
Even with all this activity, Sam has still managed to progress her own apprenticeship, mainly because she and her personal tutor Rhys, from Paragon Skills, have created a plan that ensures Sam is supported remotely.
Then there is Hannah. Hannah was very excited to begin her apprenticeship programme and work towards her qualification when she met with her Paragon Skills tutor, Claire, over a month ago. But after the lockdown began and one of her patients passed away from COVID-19, Hannah felt it wasn’t something she could cope with. Claire, recognising that the situation must be difficult, tried to put Hannah’s mind at ease. Once they found time to speak, Hannah explained why she didn’t want to continue with her programme with the stress of covering extra shifts for those who were off sick due to COVID-19 and with three children at home.
Claire, who has experience of a care home setting and is fully trained in mental health first aid, pointed out that reduced study time would still allow her to make progress towards her qualification. One week later, Hannah had completed five new activities to a really high standard. All she needed to get her confidence and drive back was someone to talk to.
Some learners, like Sam and Hannah, want the distraction of learning during the pandemic and are eager to progress with their apprenticeship. Others, however, just need to focus their time and attention on their immediate challenges and to pause their learning.
Healthcare worker Eva is struggling with anxiety worsened by COVID-19. With young children at home, Eva is terrified of bringing the virus home and she is worried about putting herself and her family at risk. However, she also wants to carry on with the job she loves doing; supporting those vulnerable members of society who need the care and attention our specialist healthcare workers provide. While Eva concentrates on balancing family and work during this difficult time, she is less able to work on her apprenticeship. So her tutor Kellie has focused on keeping in touch with Eva, listening to her concerns or the issues she is facing at work, and providing her with a supportive ear.
Eva’s last call with Kellie was two and a half hours long. By the end of the call Eva was feeling happier and better equipped to continue with the great care she has been providing.
Something tutors at Paragon Skills have noticed more of in April is that a large number of learners don’t have anyone else they feel comfortable talking to. Their line manager is under huge amounts of pressure, they don’t want to burden their families with their concerns, or their family are based in other countries. Having a supportive ear from a dedicated tutor means they can talk through their
worries, they can cry, vent or just explain how they are feeling to an experienced person who has worked in that setting and who understands the pressures, so can relate.
“The dedication, duty of care and abilities that these apprentices have should, in our opinion, be viewed with the same respect and admiration we have for highly experienced nurses and doctors,” Mark Botha, CEO of Paragon Skills said. “They’re continuing to provide vital care and much needed support to their clients in a variety of settings, including care homes, hospitals and even the clients’ homes, all the while trying to keep themselves and their families safe.”
*All names have been changed to protect learner identities.