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Former builder constructs new career in mental health as part of National Careers Week

A former construction worker from Northampton who decided to transfer his skills from building houses to building better futures has spoken of his joy at his career change.

Speaking as part of National Careers Week, which started on Monday, March 7, Simon Austin decided to embark upon a career in mental health in 2000.

Then, aged 24, he started out working as a Healthcare Assistant at St Andrew’s Healthcare, but has quickly progressed through the ranks and is now a Staff Nurse.

Now aged 45, Simon said: “I had been working since I was 16 and just became a bit fed up with the building trade. That’s when I decided to look around a bit. I knew I wanted to do something more worthwhile with my life, which is when I spotted the job at St Andrew’s, I knew it was for me.”

It was after he joined the charity that Simon realised he wanted to continue on the healthcare journey, so he joined the St Andrew’s ASPIRE programme which offers many training opportunities. This meant Simon could train to become a mental health nurse while still working as a Healthcare Assistant.

He said: “I needed to earn a monthly salary. As an older adult I would not have been able to fund the course myself, so the financial support was a major factor for me in deciding to do the training. I could fit in paid shifts around university which really helped.

“The course developed my confidence and my experience and knowledge of working with people with different mental health conditions. I became better at my job and was able to help patients more effectively.”

The programme is funded and supported by St Andrew’s, a huge benefit to those who might not be able to afford university otherwise.

Simon says that during the course he felt really supported by everyone around him, which was important as it was a big step for him to go to university as a mature student.

He added: “St Andrew’s is a wonderful place to work. It has excellent facilities and training opportunities to help people progress. Originally, I didn’t intend on becoming a qualified nurse, however, as I had done various training courses since working at St Andrew’s it built up my confidence academically and I decided to take the next step in my career.”

As well as encouraging professional development for qualified nurses, St Andrew’s also offers financially supported nursing scholarships to individuals who are passionate about a career in mental health nursing. These are offered on a unique three-and half-year scholarship programme.

They are aimed at 18–24-year-olds who have the drive to attend university, but not necessarily the support or financial means to do it. The programme combines hands-on experience at St Andrew’s, with academic learning and study at the University of Northampton, leading to a BSc (Hon’s) degree.

St Andrew’s is recruiting newly qualified and student nurses, through to senior mental health nurses and a clinical nurse lead role. For those at the start of their career, St Andrew’s offers the chance to join an expert multi-disciplinary team working and gain wide experience initially, before choosing an area to specialise in.

For more information about careers at St Andrew’s click here.