First UTC APEX conference brings together industry partners, students and staff in digital and health

On Thursday 9th February, 130 students from 4 University Technical Colleges (UTCs) came together for the first UTC APEX (Advanced Patient Experience) conference hosted by Derby Pride Park UTC. This conference explored the intersection between Healthcare Science and Digital Technology, particularly how technology can be utilized by healthcare professionals to improve patient care and outcomes.

Both Digital and Healthcare sectors are growth industries, with numerous employment opportunities and career paths. The technologies that enable better health outcomes for citizens can be used in many circumstances and help bring to life the link between technology and real world challenges.

The conference brought together students of Health and Digital disciplines, Digital and Health teachers and industry partners in the Digital Health field. Kate Ambrosi, Director of Innovation and Learning from Baker Dearing Educational Trust, started off by welcoming everyone to this pilot student conference and introducing Guy Player, who delivered an insightful keynote address in which he encouraged students to make mistakes and just have a go, saying “[it is] better to have tried and failed and learned through the process than not to have tried at all”. Guy Player is Managing Director at Accenture, who looks after Digital Health, Private Healthcare and NHS Resolution portfolios and is a pharmacist by trade. He is passionate about using technology to transform the way healthcare is delivered and experienced. Throughout the day, students had the opportunity to take part in workshop sessions from Accenture on Health in the Metaverse and Equity in Healthcare, AstraZeneca on Data Collection in Clinical Trials, the NHS on Virtual Wards and Promake on Graphene and Digital Twins.

Speaking part way through the day, John Dyer, Lead Teacher for Science Innovation at Liverpool Life Sciences UTC – said “it’s been fantastic so far. The first session from Accenture on VR was incredible – they went to the south of France and did a tour of their labs and the VR environment – incredible!” He commented that his students had got a lot out of the day and that “judging from the questions they were asking during the sessions and the feedback I’ve had from them when I’ve been speaking to them, I think they’ve loved it!

The students were from years 9, 10 and 11, so at the very beginning of their career journeys. The sessions in the conference gave them an insight into the plethora of roles in the health sector, especially those involving digital technology.

Speaking about the workshop on Health Equity from Accenture, Lily – a Year 11 student at UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park – commented “We talked about track and trace and the impact that it had on people during lockdown […] that was interesting seeing how it impacted people’s day to day life. I’ve really enjoyed the day.” Lily plans to stay on at the UTC for 6th form and then wants to go to University to study psychology.

Joe, who is in Year 10 at the host UTC, Derby Pride Park UTC, said “it’s been great to hear different aspects from different sectors of work. Learning about the future of Health. It has opened my mind to what the future is going to look like and seeing how technology has already developed”.

During their lunch break students had the opportunity to network with apprentices Holly Haigh from AstraZeneca and Grace Thomas and the rest of the Digital Health Team from Accenture as well as Device and Sensor Expert at AstraZeneca Katie Locke and Future Workforce Stream Lead on the Digital Readiness Education Programme at Health Education England Di Bullman.

The day was rounded off by Henrietta Mbeah-Bankas, Head of Blended Learning and Digital Learning and Development at Health Education England who launched the Student NHS Challenge – invited students to submit their own ideas to help the NHS solve the issues it is facing around safety, quality and experience, using digital technology. The challenge is open until 17th March 2023 and we cannot wait to see what the students will come up with!