Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust has an impressive track record for taking on apprentices and nurturing their potential.
Having decided against going to university for health reasons, James Angliss joined the RCHT Apprenticeship Scheme in November 2018. In less than three years, he’s just gained promotion to a Band 6 Assistant Project Manager within the hospital’s Strategic Estates team and is now on course for a career path that most 22-year-olds can only dream of. This is his inspiring story.
James – you were all set to go to university when you left school. What changed your mind?
I went to school in Falmouth and was all set to go to Bristol to study Geography. In my spare time, I worked at The Stable, initially as a Kitchen Porter before heading into the kitchen as a chef. It was hard work – but I enjoyed earning pocket money, despite the long hours. Just as I was sitting my A levels, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis which for the last 4 years has been quite debilitating. I took the decision to take some time out and defer my place at university in order to get my condition under control and, post exams, I took on a full-time role at The Stable instead.
Did you ever have plans to become a chef?
Initially, I really wasn’t interested in food at all, but once I got into the kitchen and started to get more involved, I slowly developed a passion. I made some great friends there, too, and the longer I stayed, the more responsibility I was given – from stock taking to deputising for the Head and Sous Chefs. It got to the point where I was doing lots of senior-related jobs but without the reward or recognition. After two years, I decided that hospitality wasn’t for me and, having made the tough call not to head off to university at all, I began to look around at what else was out there.
How did you land an apprenticeship with the NHS?
I’m ambitious and hard-working, and always knew I should try to get more qualifications after my A levels. Having applied for loads of jobs around Cornwall, I came across a Business Administration Apprenticeship here at RCHT. It appealed to me because it’s a big, professional organisation which offers a lot of scope to learn across a wide range of disciplines as well as opportunities for career progression.
My apprenticeship route started at Cornwall College where I spent a year gaining a Level 2 qualification – learning basics such as how to take notes and meeting minutes, how to answer telephones and general business etiquette. It was a bit tedious to be honest but it was a good grounding. Things got much more interesting when I was assigned to the Project Office within Strategic Estates here at RCHT that I really started to develop an understanding of both how the NHS works and project management. I received great advice and support from my allocated Project Managers and when a job opening came up for a Band 5 Assistant Project Manager (Degree) Apprentice position, I applied and got it.
As part of this apprenticeship, you need to start a degree course alongside. Again, I got some great advice from my mentors who suggested I opt to study Quantity Surveying. It gives you a good background for what you need to know for projects such as finance, contracts, quality assurance, finding best value, and commercial management. So that’s where I’m at. I started my degree in September 2020 and have just finished my first year (of the 5-year) course. I am on “day release” for my studies, so will be finished by 2025 and after that, I will probably look to study for professional exams – but that’s a little way off!
What do you enjoy most about your apprenticeship?
I really like being able to apply what I learn academically to the real world. For example, methodology of construction… understanding how projects are planned, seeing things like foundation trenches on site, knowing what certain terms mean like periscope ventilators! Or if I see something at work but I haven’t understood why it’s there, the academic studies will explain it. It’s been a really enjoyable experience too, being part of a lively team with a lot going on, especially at the moment. It’s a great time to work here at Royal Cornwall Hospital, watching all the big project builds come together.
Do you feel you missed out on going to university?
I’ve probably missed out a bit on university life – not moving away from home and not having as much independence. But I live in Falmouth which is a young town full of students and to be honest I had quite a student experience working as a chef before my apprenticeship! And financially I am in a much better position.
What advice would you give anyone seeking to do an apprenticeship?
Be prepared to work hard. An Apprenticeship Degree carves up the workload into 5 years rather than 3, but you still have to keep up with your assignment deadlines. I do a lot of reading and studying in the evenings and at the weekend. That said, if you’re willing to put in the effort, it will reward you… I’ve just been promoted into a Band 6 developmental role at the age of 22 and whilst I’m contracted to complete my Apprentice Degree, I am no longer officially an apprentice. Personally, I’m really chuffed with the route I’ve taken, despite it being somewhat unplanned.
Finally, given what you know now, would you do anything differently?
If I were to re-apply, I would have started my apprenticeship sooner. They’re geared to 16 to 18 year-olds, in all honesty, so it just means I would be qualified that bit sooner. However, it’s been a fantastic scheme for me – and given my health issues I’ve really appreciated the support.
Thanks James – best of luck in your new substantive post and we look forward to following your NHS career.