A Business and Management graduate from the University of South Wales (USW) is set for a bright future in the NHS, thanks to an internship at Velindre Cancer Centre.
Shannon Wills, 22, from Mountain Ash, has just graduated with a first-class honours degree, and is now preparing for her next role on the NHS Wales General Management Graduate Programme – a two-year scheme that has been designed for aspiring future leaders in healthcare.
The programme will allow Shannon to study a fully-funded Masters course alongside work-based learning in placements across primary care, secondary care and corporate divisions of the NHS.
As part of the role, she will be working on major projects which focus on embracing innovative solutions for the post-Covid workplace, bringing in fresh ideas and supporting strategic plans to help the NHS in its ambition to bring health and social care services together.
And it was after a 10-week internship at Velindre, during Shannon’s second year of her degree, that the opportunity came her way. Organised by USW’s work placements team, she was based at the Cardiff centre from January to March 2020, just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
“My role was the Business Education Communication Officer,” said Shannon, who attended Mountain Ash Comprehensive School before studying at USW.
“The education and development department of Velindre specialise in personal development and opening up careers within the NHS, so I was offered lots of training and future opportunities from the outset.
“At the time I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work in the NHS, but over the course of the 10 weeks I was given the chance to do so much, that I just loved it there. I achieved my initial goals within three weeks, thanks to the project management modules of my degree, which helped me apply those planning tools and techniques to any task that I was given.
“I had a very supportive manager who I worked closely with to run a managers and leaders event, and meeting so many people at the different health boards really helped to build a network for me.
“Just before the pandemic I was offered a full-time job there, alongside my studies, which meant I took on a lot more responsibility within the role. I was able to go to Velindre during the day and come home to catch up on my lectures online, which was tough but so rewarding.
“Later in the year I was deployed to the Velindre University NHS Trust headquarters in Nantgarw, where I supported the Director of Velindre with communications, workforce planning, teamwork, marketing, managing the website – it was so varied, and really helped my well-being throughout Covid to have this fantastic job to focus on.”
From January to May this year, Shannon worked on the Velindre Covid-19 vaccination programme, which ensured that cancer patients and frontline healthcare workers were able to receive their vaccinations as soon as possible.
While working in this role, she also went through the rigorous application process for the NHS Management programme, which included four exams, online tests and a series of interviews. Shannon was one of just 21 successful candidates out of 179 who applied.
“There’s no way I would have had this brilliant opportunity to go for the project manager role had I not done the internship,” said Shannon.
“Internships are brilliant for giving you a taster of a career, testing your confidence, your communication and how you work with people – it really develops those skills which are essential in any business management role.
“I’m so excited to start this new chapter, and am hugely grateful to the University for giving me the opportunity to get to where I am now.”
Dan Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Business and Management at USW, said: “From initially being nervous about taking an internship, Shannon thrived in the environment within the NHS and has developed so much in her studies as a result. Shannon is an excellent student who has benefited so much from the experience, now linking her academic studies with her practical, real world experience. I was delighted to hear she has been accepted as one of the very few on the NHS General Management Graduate Scheme. It is true testament to her hard work and dedication over the past two years and I am sure Shannon will be hugely successful in the role.”
Julie Gould, Work Placement Partner at USW, added: “We have successfully partnered with the Velindre Cancer Centre’s Education and Development department for the past two years, to provide industry focused experience to second year business students on a 10-week Internship programme as part of their degree course. Our programme which runs every January-March, and offers an opportunity for businesses to gain valuable insight from our interns, whilst in return giving them experience of the workplace.
“During this time, students are required to identify an issue, problem or project within the workplace for their academic portfolio while also completing a skills reflection based on their experience. For example, the Velindre Cancer Centre involve students in project management, marketing and advertising and they have been impressed with their communication skills, brilliant work ethic and drive, employability skills and abundance of knowledge, while becoming valued members of their team. It's an absolute pleasure to work with the dedicated staff at the Velindre Cancer Centre and I look forward to their continued support.”