Louise Smith, Modern Apprentice in Procurement


Louise Smith

Job Title: Modern Apprentice in Procurement
NHS National Services Scotland (NSS)
Name: Louise Smith
Entry Route:


1.  What did you do before your modern apprenticeship?  

left school in 2011 and went to university to study event management.  I wasn’t really enjoying the course and, at the time, I thought I might want to be a midwife.  I left university to study a healthcare course at college which would give me access to the degree in midwifery.  I discovered this wasn’t really the route for me either so I decided to give myself some breathing space and look for a job as a medical receptionist.  My mum works in the NHS so I knew to look for jobs on https://jobs.scot.nhs.uk/  When I looked, the MA in Procurement was advertised and I thought that it sounded interesting.  

2.  Tell us why you applied to be a MA in NHS National Services?  

Through my experiences at university and college, I had already worked out that I preferred to learn while working at the same time.  I learn better if what I am learning is relevant to something real.  The MA seemed like it ticked all those boxes.  

3.  What are you doing in your MA Programme?  

In the first year, I completed my SVQ in Procurement at SCQF Level 6 and core skills units in Communication, Problem Solving, Working with Others, Information & Communication Technology and Numeracy at SCQF Level 5.  In my second year, I started my Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) exams.  I have 5 exams in total to pass and I’ve passed 2 so far...only 3 to go before February 2017!  

4.  When will you finish – and what will you do then?  

I started in February 2015 and should finish in February in 2017...if I pass all my exams!  I now have a permanent job in customer engagement in NHS NSS.    

5.  What’s the best thing about the MA Programme?  

Learning as well as working!  I have completely found my calling so can see myself staying with NHS NSS.  Every day, I can see how the work I do makes cost savings on NHS expenditure. Those savings can then be re-invested into patient care.    

A group of MAs all started at the same time in NHS NSS. There was a structured programme of induction in place for us including the expectations on us, our mentors and managers, reflective diaries and work plans.  This meant that we knew exactly what was expected of us, we had goals to meet and we could see exactly what we had achieved over time.  Importantly, we also knew where to go for help and support.  Together, we set up a Facebook page so all the procurement apprentices nationally could keep in touch and ask each other for help if we got stuck or if we just needed a chat.    

I have had so many opportunities to develop my presentation and networking skills. I even had the opportunity to show Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Employability and Training around the building and tell him about the MA Programme.  

6.  What would you change?  

It was good for us to be buddied up together at the start but that made it difficult for us to split up and integrate with the rest of the teams and staff once we found our feet. Making sure that we were introduced to everyone at the start and that we were there as members of staff contributing to the work of teams is important. It was nice that we were made to feel special but some staff found that difficult to understand at first.    

7.  What are your plans for the future?    

I would like to progress on to level 6 in my CIPS exams.  I definitely want to continue working in procurement but for me, it’s important that I stay in the public sector or maybe charity sector.  Here I can see that I’m doing something good that makes a difference to people.  

8.  What advice would you give to young people considering their career options?  

University is not everything and it’s not for everyone. Take a breath and look at all the options. Take the initiative to look at things that you maybe haven’t considered. Don’t do what other people want you to do or expect you to do. My parents brought me up with a strong work ethic which is so important in achieving your career and personal goals.  

 9.  What do you think of NHS NSS as a place to work?  

It’s full of acronyms which I am now getting my head around!  Seriously though, it is a really flexible, supportive place to work.  I have built up great relationships based on trustI am well paid and the conditions are excellent.  Importantly, I can see how the work I do directly impacts positively on, for example a patient in distress coming into A&E late at night and the staff who are there providing care.