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New apprenticeship allows nurses to begin midwife training

Seven Maternity Support Workers are set to make history after being appointed as Apprentice Midwives.

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The Apprentice Midwives, from left: Abigail McDonald, Jodie Martin, Nicola Cox, Rebecca Hartshorn, Lucy Woodcock, Charlie Cooper and Sonia Narwall.

The Maternity Support Workers (MSW) at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (RWT) will start the same BMid degree courses as student midwives at The University of Wolverhampton in September to kick-start three years of study through their apprenticeships.

Once they qualify, this will represent a record number of apprentice midwives recruited in the three years RWT has been running the project after three were recruited in the first year and two last year.

Joanne Lea has been maternity transformation project lead at RWT since April 2022 to enable progression and development for MSWs with the hope of recruiting more midwives.

She said: “It’s a really good opportunity for MSWs to become future midwives.

“Because of the national shortage of midwifery workforce, we are trying to recruit innovatively.

“It’s such an exciting opportunity for our MSWs as, in three years’ time, we’ll be in a position where we’ll have seven home-grown midwives.”

Ms Lea said a great example of the project is Jodie Martin, MSW.

She said the 32-year-old, who has a three-year-old daughter, shone in her interview.

She said: “Jodie was cleaning and stocking the storerooms when we found out what her midwifery aspirations were.

“We got her on this apprenticeship, fully supported and fully funded by the trust, and hopefully she will give us many years’ service in return.

"Another MSW, Sonia Narwall, actually joined us from Warwick because she’d heard about the programme.”

A big advantage of the programme is staff can ‘learn while they earn’ without incurring expensive tuition fees.

Ms Lea said: “They won’t have any university fees and are paid throughout their apprenticeship.

“For those who have other commitments outside of work, this is an ideal opportunity.”

With a well publicised national shortage of midwives, RWT is increasing all of its student pipelines, including the apprenticeship.

With the numbers of those training rising, Ms Lea said she hopes the success of recruiting seven homegrown midwife apprentices can help more to follow them.

“We’re hoping that because they’ve worked for the NHS and we offer flexible working patterns, along with many developmental opportunities, we can retain our workforce.

“We’re already supporting them to complete their English and Maths qualifications, we have 100 per cent compliance from all our MSWs completing the care certificate and we’re offering them apprenticeships at different levels.”

Tracy Palmer, director of midwifery at RWT, said: “I am extremely proud of the work and commitment from our teams of staff who are working relentlessly to recruit into our profession.

“The apprenticeship programme is an exemplar example of how workforce leads and senior leaders are looking to the future to keep our profession resilient, as well as our women, babies and families safe.”