Learning Disability Today
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In celebration of National Apprenticeship Week (5-11 February), learning disability charity Hft is highlighting the importance and advantages of apprenticeships in the social care sector, outlining clear progression routes and an accessible entry into the sector.
Hft currently employs 150 apprentices, offering opportunities to those who are either new to the social care sector or would simply like to further their career. Although the charity has provided apprenticeships for over seven years, in the past year, it has partnered with well-established apprenticeship provider Impact Futures. Together, they continue to provide career development opportunities within adult social care, all the while delivering personalised care and support to learning disabled adults.
Hft’s Apprenticeship, Employability and Income Manager, Laura McLaren, who herself started her career in social care as an apprentice over 23 years ago, said: “I have never been a traditional academic so when I realised I could gain a qualification whilst learning practically, there was no stopping me. I am a huge believer in the power of apprenticeships and ensuring accessibility for all learners.”
Hft’s current cohort of apprentices includes Chloe Eacock, Registered Manager of a residential home in Shropshire. Chloe started with Hft in 2017, when she was 19 years old, as a Level 2 Apprentice Support Worker, following a stint of volunteering which inspired her to develop a career in health and social care.
It quickly became clear to Chloe that she loved supporting adults with learning disabilities, and she was inspired to apply for the initial apprenticeship. She said: “My first apprenticeship gave me the confidence I needed to further my career. I enrolled onto my Level 2 shortly after completing my Care Certificate Induction, throughout which I received support from my development coach. I really enjoyed that initial apprenticeship journey.
“Completing this qualification gave me the confidence to apply for a leadership role. I became a Senior Support Worker shortly after and stayed in this role for over a year. I was then given the opportunity to apply for Deputy Care Home Manager.
“I then had the opportunity to apply for the role I’m in now which I love, as a Registered Care Home Manager. Alongside this, I am also working towards my Level 5 Leader in Adult Care apprenticeship.
“Without the guidance of an apprenticeship, I wouldn’t have had the skills or knowledge to be a leader or manager,” she said.
Among the newer apprentices at Hft are John Lunn and Shreema Parton. Having started their apprenticeship journeys in November 2023, the pair are both hoping to follow in Chloe’s footsteps and progress to management roles within the sector.
John works at Hft’s service in Ironbridge, Shropshire, and is undertaking his Level 3 Health and Social apprenticeship. This will ensure he is ready for his next goal – to become a Deputy Care Home Manager.
“I am enjoying the learning experience so much that I have already applied for the Level 5 to support my leadership roles going forward.
“The regular supervision sessions with my managers each week ensure I am where I need to be with my work load and progress with my NVQ,” he explains.
No working day is the same for John. He said: “I could be supporting individuals to get ready for the day and assisting with their medication. I also lead the support team and ensure they are following Person Centred Active Support throughout the day, and support individuals to access the community and participate in activities they enjoy and that they choose.
“A highlight is communicating with families and collaborating with management and the support team to ensure the needs of the people I support are met with high standards.”
Shreema, who is currently undertaking a Level 5 Leadership and Management apprenticeship in Shropshire, shares a similar experience.
“No day is the same in the social care sector and that is the most exciting part of being a Senior Support Worker. As is being able to support the team to make day to day decisions around their care, and ensuring everyone is supported in the way they want to be,” she said.
Shreema is keen to further her leadership skills and knowledge of health and social care. She hopes that the skills she has developed through her NVQ will enable her to lead a team and provide the best support adults with learning disabilities.
She concludes: “I’m excited to learn more about leadership. I feel this course will empower me and give me a new-found confidence.”
Abigail Clargo is the PR and Media Officer for Hft