Pharmacy training with vision and purpose

When we talk about having a vision, it can sound such a grandiose statement, but vision and purpose are important in all aspects of our lives, controlling our direction and the decisions we make, anticipating our futures.

Amerjit Singh and Cordelia Singh had a vision for their new business venture, Skills4Pharmacy, and that vision has clarified their purpose, allowing them to build and drive a model for apprenticeship training in the pharmacy sector which is second to none. 

Skills4Pharmacy is a provider of initial education, training, and functional skills for pharmacy apprentices nationwide. Established in 2015, Skills4Pharmacy has fast built an enviable reputation in the provision of flexible, high-quality training programmes for pharmacy technician and support worker apprenticeship training to NHS Trusts and community pharmacies across the UK.

The venture has developed from modest beginnings to one which is making a real impact in the industry. The founders, Amerjit and Cordelia Singh had noted a shortfall in the provision of apprenticeship training. Amerjit, a pharmacist and pharmacy contractor himself, with 25 years’ industry experience was unimpressed with the quality of education and the knowledge that was being imparted to his apprentices at local colleges and so the seed for what would become Skills4Pharmacy, was sown.

Cordelia and Amerjit’s career paths, whilst vastly different, gave them the knowledge and experience they needed to lay the foundations for Skills4Pharmacy. Amerjit, a pharmacist through and through, knew exactly what pharmacy owners and managers needed from their apprentices, whilst Cordelia’s experience in education and the corporate markets allowed them to formulate their plans and commence trading, initially as a sub-contractor delivering the old level two and three framework qualifications. 

However, they quickly started to put their own mark on the training. Amerjit, in addition to being a pharmacist and pharmacy owner, is a tutor trainer assessor and internal verifier and as the managing director of Skills4Pharmacy, wanted to ensure they delivered the very best programs for both student and employer.

Amerjit commented: “Cordelia and I wanted to help young people enter into and eventually become the future of our pharmacy industry. Of course, Skills4Pharmacy is a business and it needs to work as such, but by providing our vision of pharmacy training and obtaining the very high standards we do, we get to give something back to an industry that is such a big part of our lives."

A major turning point in the company’s development was in May 2017 when Skills4Pharmacy became RoATP (Register of Approved Training Providers) registered. The RoATP moderate the quality of apprenticeships and provide assurance to learners, employers, and the Government that training via apprenticeship meets the requisite standards. For Skills4Pharmacy, this meant their pharmacy orientated apprenticeships had the backing of the Department of Education, an achievement repeated in 2019 when the obligatory reapplication was required. 

As the business became established, Cordelia’s responsibilities focused on business development, working with employers from national chains and hospital trusts, through to independent contractors, as well as promoting apprenticeships to a wider pharmacy network. A key part of Cordelia’s work was her role in the welfare and general well-being of the Skills4Pharmacy learners, an issue that Cordelia and Amerjit believe to be essential and can often be overlooked in larger organisations.     

Amerjit and Cordelia’s vision has seen Skills4Pharmacy take young people through level two, to level three apprenticeship programs and provide them with solid foundations that will allow them to develop into fantastic technicians and be a real asset to their employers. 

Despite now working with some of the biggest names in the sector, including Guy’s & St Thomas’s Hospital, Barts Health NHS Trust, Day Lewis, Cohens and Jhoots to name but a few, Skills4Pharmacy maintains its personal touch. They work closely with employers to ensure their needs are met and inspiring candidates to be the best they can. They also serve many independent pharmacies, understanding the important role the independent contractors play within the sector, and just how critical the quality of training can be to these businesses. 

Skills4Pharmacy is now well established as a training provider, but Amerjit believes there is still a lot of work to do within the sector, commenting, “Pharmacy as a sector has not yet fully embraced apprenticeships, which is a shame as they have the potential to answer skills shortages, a problem that needs to be addressed, especially in a sector that has an aging workforce and recruitment challenges."

Cordelia and Amerjit are committed to breaking the status quo and highlighting the benefits of pharmacy apprenticeships across the sector, holding regular seminars around the country with pharmacy employers, to explain the value that an apprenticeship can bring.     

In Skills4Pharmacy Amerjit and Cordelia Singh have created a training company that is run by pharmacy professionals, for pharmacy stakeholders that allows pharmacy employees the opportunity to obtain the knowledge, skills, and behaviours to become the talented and engaged work force the pharmacy sector needs.

Matt and Lakshmi make a case in point, two of Skills4Pharmacy’s own teaching staff, they came through the Skills4Pharmacy apprenticeship programmes, commencing at Level 2, to Level 3 technician and then moving on to complete both assessing and teaching qualifications.  Both Matt and Lakshmi are in their early twenties and have achieved so much within the apprenticeship programmes. They are bright stars within the industry, and as tutors, they are now set to go on and inspire future generations within the sector.    

The vision continues, as Skills4Pharmacy goes from strength to strength, with over 250 students in place across different areas of the pharmacy sector, Cordelia reflected: “To have over 250 students is a wonderful achievement, and it’s most gratifying that so many within sector already know and trust the Skills4Pharmacy brand."

She continued: “We are constantly exploring ways to improve services, adding greater benefit for learners, partners, and employers. We aren’t really the type to sit back on our laurels, there’s always room to improve and grow."

Whilst serving hospital, community, online, hub-and-spoke and delivery only pharmacy services Skills4Pharmacy have demonstrated a greater understanding of the pressures facing fellow pharmacy employers and their apprentices and remain focused on delivering services that alleviate those pressures around training and recruitment. 

Amerjit concluded: “It’s simple really, Cordelia and I have always wanted all parties to achieve the highest level of attainment and performance in their roles. For learners to be safe and have a supportive environment to learn in, helping and supporting our learners to achieve and improve - that can only be good for their employers and the pharmacy sector in general - that’s the vision."