Beth Rees

In 2020, carer Beth Rees found herself at the centre of the COVID-19 storm as she worked in a rehabilitation hospital. In 2021, she's got the key worker badge of honour, and a Level 2 Health and Social Care apprenticeship to boot. Here's her story...

Beth's story

Beth started her Level 2 Health and Social Care course with TSW in December 2020. She was working in a rehabilitation hospital for adults with learning disabilities and mental health issues.

After completing her apprenticeship, it was all change. We caught up with Beth one evening, after her first day in the job as a Learning Support Assistant (LSA). She's started her STLS apprenticeship, also with TSW, in a special needs school.

Tell us about your career

I've only ever worked with adults, starting in domiciliary care when I was just 17. 

I did that for three and a half years in two caring environments. I changed for a couple of reasons - I was on a zero-hour contract, and I wanted something more stable. That's when I found a job in the rehabilitation hospital. I was there for almost three years.

Why did you change from health and social care to childcare?

I did my degree in Childhood Development and working with children is something I've wanted to do for a while. When the opportunity came up to work with them, I took it because I wanted to put all I had learned to good use. 

Tell us about your qualifications

You must have a qualification to work in a health and social care role, so I signed up for health and social courses at college before moving onto the Level 2 apprenticeship while I was working.

For the Level 2, I achieved all my live assessments and passed the Essential Skills qualifications. The apprenticeship has given me the flexibility to go back into health and social care if I want to. 

To move onto the childcare course, I needed to do a digital literacy Essential Skills qualification. That was a one-day course where I researched and created a PowerPoint presentation and I passed! 

What was your training advisor, Kayleigh Piddick, like?

My relationship with Kayleigh was really good. I did things on time and she liked that.

She told me at the beginning that she was: "...quite lenient, but if we're getting towards deadlines, then I will be nagging you." And she never had to nag me, so that's a good thing. 

The way Kayleigh showed me how to do the research was really helpful. And, she pointed me in the direction of useful websites to support me too.

Did you ever meet her or was it just online?

I never met Kayleigh, I only spoke to her on the phone. 

We tried though. She would say: "I'll try and get down to where you're working to meet you soon," but then we'd get locked down again, or restrictions became higher rather than being lifted. We never got the chance to meet in person.

It didn't hinder my learning because it is the only way that I've known. Sometimes I'd forget to ask things on the phone, but I'd follow up with a message or email. It would have been nice if we could have met in person though.

How was your whole apprenticeship experience with TSW?

Really good. Kayleigh would ask me what I know and then give me feedback to improve. Doing it like that helped me to realise how much I know.

Comparing my experience with my colleagues, who studied with other providers, put things in perspective. They were asked to write long essays, whereas Kayleigh and I used special assessment tools, which I much preferred. 

"At TSW, we believe in flexible and inclusive assessments so your skills are always fairly evaluated,” explains our Head of Quality, Sarah Elston. "Our TAs use a variety of assessment tools to measure and track your knowledge, competency and understanding, using platforms like Smart Assessor and eTrack. But, if you have an academic flair and prefer writing essays and Harvard referencing, we encourage that too."

What challenges did you face?

When I was working in the rehabilitation hospital, I was working long shifts. If I had a couple of those a week, I just felt like I had no time. I didn't want to learn after a 12-hour shift. My brain was tired from keeping everyone calm and happy, but then to sit down at night, trying to type something that made any sense at all, was hard work. But I did it. 

What was it like studying for an apprenticeship and being a key worker through COVID?

When COVID first appeared, it was hectic and I worked so many more shifts. It would have been impossible to meet my deadlines.

Fortunately, I started studying in December when everything had settled into a routine. COVID didn't affect my learning at all. Not as many people were needing to isolate themselves. My employer had got into the groove of things and we knew what we were doing with PPE and cleaning to stay safe. It was just a new way of working and I adjusted.

Did you feel supported by TSW throughout?

I always felt fully supported. There were times where I had problems at home and Kayleigh told me to take it at my own pace, that there was lots of time and not to worry about it. There were never any issues.

Beth's Training Advisor, Kayleigh Piddick, said:

"Beth is the kind of person who is very driven, organised and proactive. She gets things done.

"She would never complain about getting her coursework done, despite working long shifts in an exceptionally challenging environment during difficult times she would always complete her action plans in full and to a very high standard.

"Whilst working her notice Beth worked hard to be sure that she could complete part of her qualification, enabling her to gain certification in part to recognise her hard work.

"I'd like to think that our working relationship was one based upon respect. She respected my judgement in the work I was asking her to complete and would make all efforts to complete it, and I, respecting her for the role she is undertaking in HSC, her commitment to learning and raising standards in the sector."