Manufacturing Apprentice Robbie Lavin took a lead role in making hand sanitiser for the GSK Barnard Castle site including training other employees in the process. This was really important so that the site could continue to have controls in place in order to continue trusted supply of medicine to our patients.

GSK Barnard Castle is one of the largest secondary manufacturing sites in the network making sterile, dermatological and inhaled  products for our patients. Over 1000 staff work either making testing or supplying these life saving medicines.

Robbie aged 18 was six months into his first year of his apprenticeship when Covid-19 caused a lockdown on the site. Most of the site apprentices were sent home to work at home and continue studies along with many other staff members leaving a skeleton key worker crew who could continue to make the medicines needed. When it became difficult to continue a regular supply of  hand sanitiser to satisfy such a large site. The sire decided to make their own batches to ensure we could comply with covid controls.

Robbie came back on site to support this manufacture of important batches. In the process he became a real subject matter expert and for the next 6 months he helped to produce thousands of bottles ensuring safety within the site. Not only did he support it but he led the team,  took the lead and trained other established operators in this process following all health and safety guidelines and processes. As a result of this really important work he was recognised by the site for his contribution and his can-do attitude. This project was a fantastic development opportunity exposing him to new areas and people across the site. His confidence, communication , leadership and teamwork skills improved considerably. Not only that it gave him a real sense of pride and self worth to know he had volunteered for such a project which made a difference not only to the site but to our patients.


George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust

During COVID-19 all face to face studies were placed on hold and students were launched into practice, delivering vital care to patients both with COVID-19 as well as other long term conditions.  Helen Mayne, a Student Nursing Associate Apprentice, supported patients to communicate with their family members who could not visit using innovative ways.  Helen continued to support nursing staff as a Student Nursing Associate as well as concentrating on her studies and her learning objectives. 

The Apprentice Student Nursing Associate is a new role developed by Health Education England, once qualified the Registered Nursing Associate will bridge the gap between the Registered Nurse and Healthcare Assistant.  

It is usual for the Apprentice to deliver hands on care to patients, however during the recent challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic all students were launched into unforeseen measures where diversity and self-sacrifice were required.  Helen was fighting the fight from day one, in the capacity of supporting the patients, the nursing staff and other members of the multi-disciplinary team but also as an apprentice who was required to complete her learning outcomes.  To keep patients safe it was required that masks were worn, which in turn created pressure sores on ears, wearing full Personal Protective Equipment for long hours especially during the heat was challenging, however necessary.  Helen had previously attended a phlebotomy study day, this enabled her to support the ward with the staff antibody test.  This gave Helen the opportunity to take lots of blood samples and gain experience in this area of her role.

Helen found some days harder than others, more and more patients were admitted with COVID-19 and she found it difficult to see them struggling to breath and difficult to explain why their families could not visit.  Initially Helen would find ways to try and cheer up the patients even if that meant singing and dancing.  When iPads were provided to the wards it enabled Helen to help patients communicate with their relatives, which was both emotionally difficult but also rewarding. 

Throughout the pandemic Helen has remained positive in her work ethic and has bought her own life experiences to help others and guide herself through this time.  Regardless of all the challenges presented by the pandemic, Helen has achieved all of her learning objectives and is excelling at university and is striving for a distinction.  Helen’s confidence has grown through the pandemic  and she has emerged professional and triumphant.


Partnership Education

Sam Watts is a Service Technician and Technical Apprentice at Milton Keynes College working for Cranfield based tech company, Partnership Education. Prior to COVID-19, Sam’s job entailed going into schools to help them make the most of networking and cloud technologies. He was the ‘Go-To-Guy’ for when teachers weren’t quite sure how to use their software.

However, during COVID and while working from home, he was deluged with calls for help, not just from teachers but from parents and students, trying to get to grips with their newly-enforced distance learning. One of Sam’s biggest challenges was to help everything run smoothly even when the teachers and pupils involved are using vastly different devices and had very variable internet connections.

Sam is a tremendous ambassador for the business and during school closures, he did an amazing job helping to keep education going in the area. He has to balance being good at the technical side of the business but also having to win the confidence of the teachers and parents so that they feel like he’s part of the team.


Beesknees Day Nursery

Due to Covid-19, Kara Tanner has had to adapt and change the way in which she learnt as college learning moved online and away from classroom based lessons. Everything was either completed virtually or through learning on the job during the challenges of pandemic.

As Kara’s training changed to working remotely, she was able to remain working throughout Covid-19. Kara was able to continue to offer support to the business in providing a safe and stimulating environment for the vulnerable and key worker children under the care of the nursery. Kara worked the whole way through lockdown and was very supportive to her team and manager that she worked with daily.

Kara did all of this at just 17 years old. The skills and knowledge she has learnt whilst qualifying as a level 2 during lockdown has made her want to go straight onto complete her level 3. She is a great asset to the team and continues to work hard supporting those in her care.


Northumbrian Water Group

Thomas Smith joined the NWG in November 2019.  During COVID-19 Thomas continued in his role as an Apprentice Production Operator however his learning had to be accelerated to make sure that we could continue to provide clean, clear and great tasting water to all of our customers. At the start of the pandemic all of our treatment work operators were granted key worker status. 

Thomas has achieved his competency to operate Lumley WTW and treat water to a regulatory standard within 12 months, whilst also taking on additional responsibilities to learn the Sunderland Groundwater sites whilst he learnt about the water sources that come from an underground aquifer.  His flexibility has meant we can support both the Lumley and GWS teams with additional cover during COVID.  Thomas’ additional training has improved our COVID resilience, to ensure treatment works can continue to operate throughout this period.

The Level 3 Diploma quickly changed to online learning and Thomas proactively provided lecture material and led his cohorts through a practical example of filter changes, which he learnt on the Sunderland groundwater sites.  His fellow colleagues commented that it was done to a high level and Thomas’ explanation helped them understand the subject using real examples.


Fernley Resource Centre St Josephs

Due to Covid-19, the day centre at Fernley Resource Centre was forced to close. This was devastating for our service, staff, people we support and their families. During this time Rebecca Hirst worked with our residential clients supporting them at Fernley Resource Centre.

As an activity worker she has a specific focus on the quality of life issues for those she supports. Rebecca is a committed and compassionate person who gets to know the people she supports and finds out what they like and enjoy. She builds on each person’s preferences and skills and finds the things that they like to do for fun and ensures they have a positive experience while attending the Fernley Resource Centre.

Throughout the lockdown period when we were told to stay at home, Rebecca came to work each day and supported her vulnerable service users. It was a difficult time and when many stayed safe at home Rebecca never hesitated and never let us down. 

She arranged and took part in lots of person centred activities; she enjoys music and stories and was able to introduce these into her work whenever she could. She developed a very special relationship with one lady and that relationship continues to this day. The bond that they developed in lockdown is even stronger.  

Rebecca is an amazing person and she remains a shining light in this difficult period. She displays a quiet confidence when delivering support and engaging with her service users and she is such a good role model and support for her colleagues. I watched her support others during the lockdown period when they were having a difficult time and Rebecca continues to go above and beyond both at work or outside her work to help them.  


Ashwood Residential Care Home

Sharon Tinsley works as a Care Assistant within the home providing personal care and support. Sharon has worked throughout the Covid -19 pandemic and has had to undertake her weekly Covid 19- tests. Sharon has also been involved in the isolation of new patients coming into the home under the Covid -19 guidelines whilst ensuring that there have been no breaches in Personal Protective Equipment, and adhering to all regulations in sometimes difficult circumstances.

Sharon has been employed at Ashwood since 2nd October 2018. In this time she has completed her Care Certificate & Level 2 in Care Award and has worked throughout the Covid -19 pandemic. Sharon has worked all shifts over a 24 hour period, which ensures that she has a full understanding of the home daily workings and understands her client’s needs on a full 24 hour basis.

Sharon recently transferred onto the night shift pattern, and has shown her good work ethic and understanding of her clients – which is invaluable, as the client’s cannot see their loved ones inside of the home, and are mainly subject to window visits throughout the pandemic. Sharon understands that this can have a major impact on the clients especially formally diagnosed Dementia / Mental Health patients.

Sharon has been a role model for the Care Profession and throughout pandemic, has worked without absence, always with a smile and a caring word; thus aiding continuity to the people she cares for who rely heavily on routine. This in itself gives a sense of normality in some very uncertain and potentially unsettling times.


Pendennis Shipyard Ltd

It would be very difficult to single out one individual apprentice as they have all excelled during these difficult and uncertain times; so, as a company we have nominated our 1st Year Engineering Cohort of 13 young people as our nomination.

Even though the apprentices had all been furloughed at home they understood the need to continue & stay on track with their college coursework, a task not helped as the college on-line systems were far from effective in the first few weeks.

We gave our 1st year apprentices the opportunity to volunteer whilst furloughed, every one of them responded positively and couldn’t wait to get involved. They started off their volunteer period by going into the shipyard in small groups to make and sew face-masks – a new skill for all of them but they enjoyed it.                            

The apprentices also offered their support to the local community as volunteers. An example of their work, they helped with maintenance at the local cricket club something usually done by people who were now having to isolate but our apprentices made sure things didn’t fall into disrepair; the local town council were keen for help and the team did 4 weeks of town cleans preparing Falmouth for the public to come back safely. The apprentices also helped out in local schools, assisting one in Redruth to build an outside learning area, something that probably wouldn’t have got done without our volunteers. The apprentices never said no even though for some it wasn’t easy due to lock-down restrictions and travel.            


University of Oxford

Emilia Reyes Pabon was vital in supporting our manufacture of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine – the UK’s first COVID-19 vaccine to enter clinical trials.  The record-breaking speed with which we were able to successfully produce the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine, between March and April 2020, was enabled by the efficiency with which our Apprentice, Emilia, ensured we had sufficient supplies of everything we needed and that our cleanrooms used for vaccine production were clean, monitored and maintained at all times.

As an Apprentice Technician Scientist Emilia’s job description included supporting the Production team manufacturing vaccines in our cleanrooms, according to the strict regulations of Good Manufacturing Practice.  Her work involved sterilising equipment, restocking supplies, environmental monitoring to ensure appropriate cleanliness and regular cleaning of the rooms and equipment. She also worked for part of her time with the Facilities team, ensuring equipment was maintained, tested and cleaned correctly. 

photo (c) John Cairns

Once the COVID-19 pandemic began and we were tasked with producing a vaccine as quickly as possible so that a clinical trial could be started, we relied on Emilia’s dedication to her role and her diligence and competency to ensure we could achieve this goal. During this time Emilia adapted well to continuing her studies and lectures remotely with her training provider (CSR).  Her hard work paid off and she was rewarded with a Distinction in her apprenticeship in August 2020.  

We believe that Emilia has great future potential for a very successful career in this field. She has the passion and aptitude to develop and progress her skills and knowledge which will continue to benefit the Clinical BioManufacturing Facility and any future employer. For this reason, we have been very pleased to be able to offer her a new three-year higher apprenticeship – Level 5 Technician Scientist – with the intention to extend this by a further two years for Emilia to complete her Level 6 apprenticeship and gain her degree. Emilia is a great example of how taking on an apprentice can be beneficial for all involved.


Adams Morey

Dylan Marinda has developed into a key member of our team during his HGV Technician Apprenticeship and has proven to be a real asset to Adams Morey . He has great customer facing skills and brilliant attention to detail. It has been a pleasure to work with Dylan through his apprenticeship and watch him grow in confidence and skill.

During the period of COVID -19 lockdown a lot of Dylan’s colleagues were put on furlough but he was still required to work throughout the pandemic. Consequently, Dylan had to be a lot more independent, as he was given jobs to carry out on his own – which he completed with great skill. These jobs varied from inspections, clutch replacements and recalls as well as more technical work. This independence has enabled Dylan to develop his confidence, something which is seen in his work today, whilst also enhancing his customer service skills during a difficult time faced with many challenges.