NHS apprentices Woramon Davies and Omar Bojang are developing new careers thanks to the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship Programme, after arriving in Wales from Thailand and Gambia respectively.
They both work for Powys Teaching Health Board as hotel services assistants in Brecon War Memorial Hospital’s catering department where their apprenticeships are delivered by Jobforce Wales, part of the Skills Academy Wales Consortium at the NPTC Group.
Woramon was a treasury administrator in a Bangkok bank before moving to Wales through marriage in 2009 and she now has a four-year-old son.
Omar, who came to the UK from Gambia in 2009 to reunite with his British wife, has also changed career path to work in the hospitality sector, having originally trained as a plasterer. He and his wife have three children.
Both completed a Foundation Apprenticeship in Food Production and Cooking three months early, despite the remote learning challenges presented by Covid-19. Now they have progressed to an Apprenticeship in Hospitality which they again hope to finish ahead of schedule.
Woramon and Omar, who are English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) learners, are also working towards an Essential Skills Wales Communication Level 2 as part of their qualification framework, with support from their assessor Tim Brodrick-Jones, of Jobforce Wales.
They both asked to do an apprenticeship alongside their full-time jobs with Powys Teaching Health Board because they wanted to improve their knowledge and understanding of the processes involved in cooking meals to aid the recovery of clinically vulnerable and elderly patients at the hospital.
When the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions began in March last year, all workplace visits were suspended and face-to face learning was moved online, but this did not stop Woramon and Omar from continuing their learning journey.
They completed all the set tasks and provided photographs of menu items they had prepared, which left Tim to sign off the remaining controlled online assessments.
“Both Woramon and Omar had excellent knowledge of the working practices involved in preparing and cooking food at the hospital which was demonstrated in the detailed work they provided,” said Tim.
“To complete their Foundation Apprenticeship three months early was a fantastic achievement, given the fact that both are full-time NHS workers, often working with reduced staffing levels and with Covid-19 restrictions in place.
“They continue to provide meals for all the patients and staff at the hospital, whilst keeping themselves, their colleagues and their young families safe. Both Woramon and Omar are also home-schooling their children in between their busy jobs.”
Woramon learnt how to cook from her father, who runs a restaurant in Bangkok, and she would like to follow in his footsteps by opening her own café or restaurant in Brecon, specialising in a both British and Thai dishes, in the future.
“I asked to do an apprenticeship because I want to learn and grow my career,” she said. “It has taken a long time to learn to speak English and I am still learning, but I still hope to be able to finish the apprenticeship early.”
Omar said the apprenticeship benchmarks the skills he has developed over the past nine years working at the hospital. “I welcome every opportunity to develop my skills and obtain a qualification to show that I can do the job,” he added.
“I also think it’s a big advantage to go for further education to improve your language skills, whether that’s English or another language, as it develops your ability to do things.”
Humie Webbe, Apprenticeships Strategic Equality and Diversity Lead at the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW), congratulated both Woramon and Omar on their successful learning journeys.
“It is so inspiring to hear how Woramon and Oman have progressed in their apprenticeships, whilst juggling parenthood and the learning English as a second language,” she said.
“Our vision is to create a learning environment where everyone has the chance to go as far as their talent and hard work will allow, regardless of background. We want to ensure that apprenticeships are perceived to be for all and that barriers to participation are removed.”
The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.