West Nottinghamshire College is one of the first organisations in the country to implement a new apprenticeship scheme for peer support workers.

The college has worked closely with Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust – the lead organisation in the ‘trailblazer’ group – to co-develop the peer worker apprenticeship standard for a wide range of lived experience roles across the health, justice, and education sectors.

It is also one of only five colleges in the country appointed to deliver the training element of the programme.

Karen Millward, head of employer engagement at the college, said: “It has been my pleasure to be a part of this trailblazer since inception. The peer worker role can be embedded into a variety of businesses, providing an additional layer of support using shared, lived experience as a safe basis for conversation.

“As a college we are proud to have implemented the position into our own staff structure and have employed a peer worker with care experience to support current and future students going through similar experiences.

“We are actively working with employers across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to embed this apprenticeship into their own workforce. To have been part of the development of a new apprenticeship that is now nationally available makes us extremely proud.”

Chloe Martin, a peer mentor in the college’s welfare team, is amongst the first cohort of 14 apprentices to begin working towards a Level 3 Peer Worker apprenticeship programme, delivered in collaboration between the college and Nottinghamshire Healthcare.

She joins eight apprentices currently working at the trust as peer support workers, alongside four others who are employed by the Hepatitis C Trust and one from Nottinghamshire Mind. The apprentices have a proportion of their working time dedicated to learning, training and study time outside of their job role.  

Chloe, who is part of a team that supports care-experienced students, said: “I value the opportunity to undertake this new apprenticeship at the college. I have a keen interest in peer support work and can see the benefits this role brings to support the progression of care-experienced young people in developing their independence and life skills. 

“By learning about trauma-informed and recovery-focussed approaches, this apprenticeship will allow me to expand my knowledge and skills so that the individual needs of care-experienced students are met.

“I’m committed to helping young people that have been in foster care or residential care to see their potential, despite any barrier to education they may face. I have experienced many of these challenges and barriers myself as a care-leaver and I want to be a person to walk alongside to make their journeys positive. 

“This apprenticeship will help me to progress in my own journey and aspiration of obtaining a career in social work or youth work.”

Peer support workers work alongside other professionals in hospital, justice and community settings, providing support for individuals using knowledge gained from their own lived experience of health or social problems or using services. They work directly with individuals, enabling them to find their own ways of understanding their circumstances in order to access support, navigate a range of services and move forward. 

Marissa Lambert, education and practice consultant at Nottinghamshire Healthcare, is co-chair of the trailblazer and programme lead. She said: “It’s such an exciting time for peer support across the national landscape. It has been a privilege to lead this trailblazer and connect with so many inspiring peer supporters, wider stakeholders and ambitious development programmes.

“The launch of the peer worker apprenticeship is an incredible achievement driven by collective passion, wisdom and generosity.

“To support our commitment to the open and inclusive recruitment and retention of people with lived experience, we would like to encourage all partner sectors to recognise the unique skillset and diversity of applications of lived experience roles; aligned with the opportunity to strive for clear progression routes, from entry level through to leadership.”  

Cheryl McAulay-Wainwright, one of Nottinghamshire Healthcare’s new peer support apprentices, said: “I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to be part of the first peer support apprenticeship programme. I see this as an opportunity to become the best I can, in supporting people that I meet on my peer journey. I hope that others seeing myself on this path, with all these possibilities, will inspire hope in them that they can also achieve this.”

Emma Watson, peer support lead at Nottinghamshire Healthcare, said: “The apprenticeship will provide space for peer workers to explore what they do within a broader context, as well as enable them to expand their skills and learn from a diverse group of students and facilitators. The peer workers who join the course already bring considerable experience and a strong understanding of the values of peer support, and the apprenticeship will only enrich and strengthen our peer workers even further.” 

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