From education to employment



A 28-year-old woman from Abergavenny thanks her Degree Apprenticeship for allowing her to improve digital NHS services during the pandemic, while raising her first child.

Jess Marfell joined Digital Health and Care Wales (DHCW) six years ago in an entry level IT support role but has since developed her knowledge and skills to work her way up to become a Band 7 within the Primary Care Operational team, playing a vital role in rolling out new NHS services during the pandemic.

She says she wouldn’t have been able to progress as quickly without the opportunity to complete a Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship in Data and Information Systems:

“My role at DHCW involves delivering new digital solutions for organisations such as GP practices, pharmacies and prisons within Wales and using data to improve how health and care services are delivered, but also looking to improve how they can be accessed by patients too.

“I had been working in IT and data for a while, but I was ready to progress to the next level and follow a career in data information specialising in the primary care area.

“Within a role like this, we have to handle a lot of sensitive data, there’s a lot of reporting involved and a need for detailed business intelligence.

“To be able to carry out the role, I needed to expand my knowledge which I discovered I could do through a Degree Apprenticeship.”

Jess attends the University of Wales Trinity St David once a week where she’s able to learn more about the theory behind her hands-on apprenticeship.

She said: “DHCW allows me to attend university once a week so I can have time to study.

“I’m integrated with some full-time students, but the university is great at giving me support whenever I need it. I can do a degree alongside working which is a great benefit of an apprenticeship – it means I still have financial security through my salary.

“I’m also able to make the academic side of the apprenticeship relevant to my role at DHCW and can share what I’ve learned with other members of my team.

“During the pandemic, we needed to roll out a completely new online system to all GP practices in Wales within 10 days when everything went virtual – the skills I’ve learned from my apprenticeship allowed me to thrive in my role through a challenging time.

“Joining DHCW was also a total career change for me. I’d previously worked as a make-up artist on retail counters before I decided I wanted a new challenge.

“I went to university for a year after leaving school, but at 18, I didn’t feel like I was ready for this step. I’ve now been able to complete a degree alongside my new role and I think this is one of my proudest achievements yet.”

Jess is expected to finish her apprenticeship later this year and has praised the constant support she’s received. She continued:

“I can’t thank my colleagues, tutors, liaison officer and family enough for the support I’ve had over the past four years while I’ve been completing my apprenticeship. I was able to take maternity leave after I gave birth last year but was back studying for my apprenticeship within three weeks. I had the choice to defer my studies, but I really enjoyed the challenge and I wanted to carry on.

“The role is challenging but it’s so varied – I can see why some people might feel daunted by a career in data and IT, but with the right support anyone can learn it if they put their mind to it.

“There are always opportunities to progress within your role, and I’m grateful I’ve been given the opportunity to fulfil a Degree Apprenticeship; I wouldn’t be where I am now without it.

“There are young people who are finishing their exams this summer who might not know what they want to do next.

“The reality is, you don’t have to know exactly what you want to do, and it’s important for them to do something they’re passionate about and everything will fall into place.”

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said:

“The Welsh Government wants to create a fairer and more prosperous Wales, where nobody is left behind.

“That’s why we are investing a further £366m over the next three years to deliver 125,000 apprenticeships across Wales for all ages.

“This supports our commitment to ensure at least 90% of all 16–24-year-olds in Wales will be in education, employment, or training by 2050.

“Apprenticeships are a genius decision, for both employers seeking to future-proof their workforces while nurturing the talent that exists within Wales, and for people who want a proven route into employment that provides the opportunity to learn while earning a wage.

“We are also determined to increase the number of women working in STEM, as evidence tells us that a diverse workforce increases profitability, productivity and creativity across industry.

“I wish Jess the best of luck in her chosen career and urge other young women to embrace the opportunities STEM subjects can offer.”

The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.

To explore what apprenticeship opportunities are currently available in Wales, visit the Apprenticeship Vacancy Service.

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