When Helen Felton was awarded her Team Leader apprenticeship at Stafford’s County Showground in October, it was the first time she had met her tutor face-to-face since starting the course before the Covid lockdown.
The employment specialist at Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust in Stafford leads a team helping mental health patients find employment.
She wanted to improve her skills and experience so applied for the Team Leader/Supervisor Level 3 apprenticeship course run for the Trust by Midlands-based PTP Training.
The course started in January 2020 but within weeks everything had to move to online as the first Covid-19 lockdown began.
Despite this, with online support from her PTP tutor Nicola Dulson and the rest of the PTP team, Helen competed the course five months early, in May this year, and even gained a distinction.
Helen, who has worked in healthcare for more than a decade, said: “It was so bizarre meeting Nicola for the first time at the graduation.
“We had never been in the same room but had got to know each other despite having only seen each other from the neck up – she had even met my family wandering around in the background on Zoom and Teams calls.
“Despite everything, having to go online the course was great, and the support from Nicola and the team was superb and made all the difference.
“The virtual tutoring sessions worked really well and it’s the first time I’ve ever got a distinction for anything.
“I am now putting what I have learnt into practice, and it has given me so much more confidence running my team.
“It has enabled us to be more effective and expand our service so we can help more people who have struggled with their mental health to take the vital step forward of finding employment.”
Helen and her team work at St George’s Hospital in Stafford, headquarters for the Midlands Partnership Trust.
The trust provides physical and mental healthcare, learning disability and adult social care services across Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin.
PTP Training, which trades as Performance Through People, is an experienced provider of training at employers across the region, including various councils, health trusts and housing associations.
Carolyn Stokes, operations director at PTP Training, said: “We are thrilled that Helen has done so well, receiving a distinction and completing the course in record time.
“Like so many of our apprentices she adapted to learning in a completely new way, using online resources.
“It is a tribute to her own hard work and, I am proud to say, to the support and high-quality tutoring she received from Nicola and our PTP team.
“Remote delivery did not impact on the quality of teaching, despite all the challenges everyone has faced since the coronavirus outbreak began. That is underlined by the success of apprentices like Helen.”
Nicola Dulson, learning and development tutor at PTP, said: “‘Helen was a pleasure to work with from the start, and we worked together for 14 months using Teams as our communication method.
“She was motivated throughout, completed her work on time and I feel that we had a great rapport.
“Her confidence grew during our 121 review sessions as she realised her true ability, and I was delighted with her achievement of a Distinction.”