More than 20 staff from SCAS were amongst 200 to graduate from a new paramedic apprenticeship degree course.
More than 20 paramedic apprentices from South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) were amongst 200 of their peers from six other English ambulance trusts who were the first to officially graduate from a trailblazing apprenticeship degree course.
The graduation ceremony took place on Wednesday, 19 July at Carlisle Cathedral as all the paramedic apprentices officially graduated in front of family and friends from the University of Cumbria after two years of combining work and study.
The BSc (Hons) Paramedic Science (Apprenticeship) Degree was devised by the University of Cumbria in 2021 to address significant, ongoing workforce shortages in the paramedic profession. SCAS was amongst seven English ambulance trusts to join the programme and the first cohort of students to complete the degree course took part in the graduation ceremony. This innovative, apprenticeship route opens up a paramedic career to more people who do not have a grounding in higher education, or who have families to support and need to earn while they learn.
Amongst those graduating at the ceremony was Lucille Starkey, who also received the ‘Best Scholar Award’ for achieving consistently high grades during her two-year degree course.
Lucille, who is based at the SCAS Resource Centre in Reading, said: “I could have done one of the other university degrees, but I chose to wait for the apprenticeship because of the ability to mix my full-time work, receiving a wage and studying alongside, enabling me to transition from an associate ambulance practitioner to a fully-fledged paramedic.”
“It was the right balance for me and allowed me to get the full degree, the Bachelor of Science (BSc) which I’m very proud to have, and helped me to consolidate my existing skills from my role while moving forward.”
Tom Rule, who Is based at Hightown in Southampton, said: “I joined SCAS in 2018 as an emergency care assistant (ECA) before progressing to an apprentice student paramedic in 2020 on the first ever cohort of apprentice paramedics in the country at the University of Cumbria.
“I have always been very career focused and wanted to push and progress in any role I undertook and joining SCAS in 2018 really solidified this was the career I wanted.
“My colleagues and the Trust have supported me throughout and SCAS opened its doors to all three training centres across the Trust, meaning practical skills could be practised in a controlled and supportive environment, with access to enhanced simulation rooms and all the training equipment needed.”
Ian Teague, Assistant Director of Education at SCAS, said: “South Central Ambulance Service is delighted to congratulate our first three cohorts of degree apprenticeship paramedics on their graduation from the University of Cumbria last week.
“The graduates have shown great determination and dedication to their studies and we are very proud of all their achievements as well as the care, professionalism, and clinical excellence they will provide to our local communities.
“The degree apprenticeship has offered an exciting route to our front-line staff enabling them to progress their careers, develop as clinicians and gain a degree while in full time employment.
“Our partnership with the University of Cumbria continues to grow as we have recently seen our 9th cohort begin their studies towards their degree apprenticeship. We look forward to congratulating many more graduates in the future.”
The apprenticeship degree programme currently delivers over 600 trained paramedics for the NHS workforce annually. According to the recently published NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, the NHS will need to increase the numbers of paramedic apprentices to 50% of overall graduate student numbers in nine years.
Tom Davidson, Director for the Centre for Excellence for Paramedic Practice at the University of Cumbria, is the innovator behind the university’s unique approach to paramedic education.
He said: “It is clear in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan that paramedics are integral to the success of the plan and the future of the NHS. Paramedics are specifically mentioned 18 times in the document, more than any other allied health profession.
“We are proud that graduates from our paramedic apprenticeship, delivered in partnership with seven English ambulance trusts, will directly boost the NHS workforce and contribute towards the ambitious targets set out in the plan.”