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Ethnic designs for learning

"I OFTEN get called doctor, which is nice", says Yassar Hussain, as he shows off his distinctive uniform.

Yassar is a trainee on Shipley College's two-year healthcare apprentice course, an initiative aimed at students from underprivileged backgrounds and ethnic minority communities.

The course aims to prepare its apprentices for nurse training or work as healthcare assistants.

Nationally, the National Health Service has been concerned that less than 1 per cent of nursing and healthcare recruits come from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Two years ago, Bradford's NHS Trust, with the support of many partner organisations in the city, approached Shipley to try for a local solution and the healthcare course was put together in a very short time.

"There was a dire need to have nurses who understood the culture and the language," says course co-ordinator Sue Nicholas.

"Some ethnic-minority patients were not able to make themselves understood."

Apprentices spend a day in Shipley College each week and three-month placements in hospitals, nursing homes and clinics.

They have financial support from a bursary amounting to pound;5,000 per year. The course equips its apprentices with Business and Technology Education Council science (health studies) and they can then go on with a clear idea of which branch of nursing they would like to train for.

Yassar Hussain and his fellow apprentices wear tunic and trousers designed for them by students at Bradford's elle Vue girls' upper school.

The design brief was to have something suitable for both sexes that could be worn over traditional Asian clothing.

Of the first intake of 18 apprentices, nine are applying for nurse education this year and one is already on a nursing course at Bradford University.

Twenty- four apprentices were then recruited for the second intake.

Yassar Hussain's decision to be a nurse puzzled his friends.

"I have had them saying, 'It's not for you, you're a man, it's a female thing'," he said.

"But that's not pressure.

"My family supports me. I've always felt the need to help people, from a very young age. This course gives a very broad picture of healthcare."

Apprentice Farha Latif admits to being more confident and a great deal less tense after being on the course.

She knows what to do in hospitals, she will speak out and she is at ease with her role.

"The course gives us a good background for nurse training", adds Rachael Webster, with obvious pride.

"We've had to learn how to learn, and that was hard to begin with, like hitting a brick wall.

"But in some ways we're better prepared than the student nurses we work with in the hospitals. We do far more biology, for instance."

Eartha Cyprien says the course has helped her gain a new sense of direction in her life.

"I've looked after my family but they've grown up and gone," she said.

"Now it's my turn and they think it's great."

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