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HR Excellence Awards 2011 - Best workplace diversity strategy: Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust

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Last year, the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT) made a move to use its apprenticeship scheme to improve gender, race, age and disability equality – and in turn, workplace diversity.

It is also committed to tackling the serious unemployment rate in the West Midlands.

In 2010, HEFT, whose remit covers East Birmingham, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield, Tamworth and South Staffordshire, delivered 210 new apprenticeship starts, while a further 236 starts are planned by the end of this financial year.

The 346 apprenticeship starts over the past two years have been used as a springboard to permanent appointments, which have risen from 11% in 2009/10 to an impressive 39% in 2010/11.

To back its strategy, the trust has set up a healthcare careers development unit (HCDU), to develop initiatives to widen participation in learning.

One such HCDU initiative is a four-week 'introduction to care' programme for trainees, where a heavy focus on clinical skills gives the trainees the confidence to become 'job-ready'.

Judges liked the fact that HEFT had tailored its initiatives to the local demography: increasing Asian apprentices by 3%; and, in an NHS dominated by women, recruiting 5% more male apprentices.

The panel said this felt like a genuine strategy, not a tokenistic approach and although HEFT only dealt with one strand of a diversity plan - apprenticeship - it dealt with it in a sophisticated, very real way.

Finalist

University of Sheffield