The NHS Transformation Unit (TU) is continuing in its quest to attract the best and the brightest to a career in the public service.

Last month has seen the second group of graduate trainees join the TU team to support the long term development of the organisation. It’s a reflection of the TU’s ambition to identify, develop and retain talent and secure the future pipeline of NHS leadership.

In a recent article, deputy chief executive, Alex Heritage wrote of the challenge for the NHS to recruit the right people from a variety of backgrounds and once recruited, to ensure more effort is spent on creating a vision and culture that focusses on developing their abilities and skills and supporting their health and wellbeing.

Given that the TU is a specialist and unique organisation within the NHS it has needed to develop its own, yet highly-complimentary, graduate training scheme to fill the areas not covered by the scheme offered by the NHS itself.

The TU’s bespoke and fully-resourced training programmes are aimed at graduates with an interest in pursuing a career in the NHS and are applying within five years of leaving university. Lasting for 18 months they provide a rare opportunity to develop highly valued skills. The training is a mix of in-house development, on-the job training and mentoring, as well as formal academic and commercial training.  Initially the graduate positions were for trainee data analysts, who also received training from The Strategy Unit, and this has now been expanded to offer project management training.

Katy Coope, head of Organisational Strategy at the TU said: “There is a limited number of places on the NHS graduate scheme and they are quite prescriptive fields. Our graduate roles are specialist disciplines not fully developed in the current system, but very much highly sought after.  There are similarities, of course, the chance to work in different areas and a heavily invested programme of support and training.

The TU management team worked with The Strategy Unit having recognised there were gaps.

Steven Wyatt, head of Strategic Analytics, said: “The health service is increasingly recognising the role that good data analysis plays in improving patient care.  But demand for experienced data scientists is fierce.  The NHS needs to take a lead in developing the analysts of the future with a strong understanding of the health sector and the unique challenges it faces.

Following the initial phase which saw the recruitment of Durham University graduate Katie Noon and Cambridge University graduate, Michael Cheng, the latest process has seen Charlotte Griffiths and Audrey Abbot becoming trainee project managers and Debbie McGovern, Ronan Machin and Patrick Hutchinson as trainee analysts.

Charlotte studied History at Leeds University; Audrey studied Religions and Theology at Manchester University, which is where Ronan Machin gained his degree in Mathematics; Debbie McGovern is an Economics graduate from Edinburgh University and Patrick Hutchinson studied Physics, Astrophysics and Cosmology at Lancaster University.

What also unites this five is a desire to work in the public sector and to help improve standards in the NHS.

Charlotte Griffiths applied for both the TU and the wider graduate scheme, but it was the TU that ultimately interested her more:  “The uniqueness of the TU as an organisation, evoking change on a mass scale, from inside out, was something I hadn’t heard of before and this really appealed to me. Whilst one of my main reasons for applying for both schemes was my drive to work in the public sector, the difference with the TU was that I would be working on such pivotal programmes of change and addressing problems directly.

Work in the TU offers the graduate a great deal of variety, learning new skills and taking on challenging tasks, but sharing core principles is key.

Katy Coope said: “To work here a graduate needs to feel an affinity to our values because if they don’t connect with them, then it’s probably not the right role. In addition, enthusiasm and resilience are very important as well as a passion for working in an ever-changing system whilst knowing, ultimately, the work is having an impact on patient care.

Our new graduates are already fulfilling our expectations. They are full of ideas, suggestions and don’t hold back in sharing these and their can do attitude is very refreshing.

For Katie Noon and Michael Cheng the experience has proved to be exhilarating and rewarding. Michael said: “Thanks to the TU scheme, I have the knowledge and skills to take on varied work, as well as the mind-set to ask the right questions, and turn complex problems to something more easily understood. I’ve gone from ‘how could I do this?’ to ‘how should I do this?’”

Katie added: “I knew that I was being trained by people that were really good at their jobs and from that I was given a lot of responsibility from quite early on and I’ve enjoyed the challenge.

Both are now offering their support to the new intake having become part of a culture that is passionate about developing the next generation of leaders and creating a sustainable talent pool for the NHS.