Employment picture is not pretty

June 2, 2006

'Go where jobs are'

For Mark Waterman , a 33-year-old second-year nursing student at Coventry University, the lecturers' strike is taking a back seat concerns about the possible jobs situation in the National Health Service when he graduates.

"Most of my lecturers are with the Royal College of Nursing so they are not striking, and where people are striking, notices have gone up about contingency plans being put in place," Waterman says.

But his job worries are increasing, even though crunch time is still a year away. "I have been working as a healthcare assistant with some qualified nurses, and they say 'Don't worry about it, things always come up'. But it hasn't been this bad before."

Nearby Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has announced 720 redundancies, he notes, and other hospitals are reducing services.

"Some people are finding it hard to find positions at the moment, but some are probably being picky about where they go. There are jobs available, and I have seen advertisements from local health authorities.

"Students who have trained in a particular area such as, say, accident and emergency, will want to go into that, but it may be a question of setting your sights more widely. You are going to have to go where the jobs are," he says.

We say 'look widely'

Like all students, student nurses are being affected by exams not being marked or set, says Chris Middleton , associate professor at the School of Nursing in the Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham.

"At a local level, though, we do not know what the full impact will be. So far, people have only been disrupted but if the action carries on, that disruption could become major," he adds.

"At the moment, no one has come off the course not being able to qualify, but it is very much a case of waiting and seeing."

On the issue of jobs, students need to think carefully about what sorts of jobs they want to do, plan earlier and get advice from as many quarters as possible. "We encourage them to look widely," he says.

He adds: "A lot of students expect that after three years there will be a job for them, so it is a huge blow when jobs are cut back in this way."

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