Support workers play an invaluable role in the lives of people with learning disabilities and autism, yet recruitment and retention across social care is currently under so much pressure.

Many employers are exploring innovative and successful approaches to social care career development. Here at Dimensions, we wanted to compare notes with other organisations about how we can encourage great people into social care, nurture amazing career journeys once there and make a difference to the people they support. 

This is why we developed the Aspire programme, which more than 450 Dimensions colleagues have undertaken. Participants, gain professional qualifications, develop leadership skills and boost self-confidence. In fact, this programme is so successful in offering opportunities for career progression that 80% of Aspire participants are promoted following their participation.

Below, three Dimensions colleagues share their experiences on how the programme helped shape their careers.

Zoe – Developing a mature attitude to career progression

Zoe says when she was initially nominated for Dimensions’ Aspire programme, she felt very concerned as she wasn’t really sure what it was about and felt worried it meant she was bad at her job.

"However, by the third coaching session, everything fell into place and I understood that this was an opportunity to find more purpose at work," she says. "Aspire has been transformative for me on both a professional and personal level as it has offered me the chance to truly find my purpose in life.

“In terms of professional development, Aspire’s coaching sessions allowed me to gain new skills and truly go above and beyond in terms of helping those we support. For example, one individual we support is diabetic and was really struggling to overcome his dislike of blood tests and cut his daily sugar intake.

"With the skills I learnt from Aspire, I was able to support him to overcome his aversion to blood tests and reduce his sugar intake in a manner that did not feel like too much of a drastic change – something that was very important to him. Without the training and self-confidence that Aspire gave me, I truly believe I would not have been able to help this individual overcome these challenges.

“Ultimately, Aspire has been completely transformational in terms of my career progression. Before the programme I had a very teenage attitude to my work, but now my mindset is far more mature. Now, I work as an Assistant Locality Manager and have plans for further growth with the ambition to provide Dimensions support to more people in my area. None of this would have been possible without the help and support of the whole Aspire team.”

Dani – Finding the confidence to be yourself

Dani says when she began the Aspire programme she was working as a Helpdesk Coordinator but knew that she wanted to push her career further.

"After expressing this to my manager, I was delighted to be put forward for the Aspire programme," she says. "The fact that Dimensions was willing to invest so much in my career and personal development made me feel as though I was truly valued.

“Before Aspire, I lacked confidence in my skills and constantly felt as though I was an imposter. However, the one-on-one coaching sessions were invaluable for me. Where before I pressured myself to mute my personality and be perfect all the time, I now have the confidence to be myself and celebrate what I bring to the table.

“The confidence workshops were also particularly instrumental in changing my approach to work. Previously, I had secured a secondment as a Helpdesk Lead and now I work as the Team Leader where I am responsible for all my colleagues’ training. The difference in my confidence when interviewing for these two roles was monumental and demonstrates the impact Dimensions has had on my career. It has truly enabled me to take my career on to the next level. Having worked at a variety of companies, it is so wonderful to work at such a truly supportive organisation where you are empowered to take charge of your career progression.”

Caroline – Understanding the value of your own voice

Caroline joined Dimensions with a business background and has since become a Locality and Registered Manager, responsible for supporting 11 individuals. Two years ago, her manager nominated her for the Aspire programme after hearing of the care and support her team had given an individual who had previously been given a 48-hour life expectancy but who is still thriving today.

“For me, the one-on-one sessions were invaluable as having someone come from the outside gave me the clarity necessary to focus on my development," she says. "These sessions also allowed me to further improve my confidence and feel more able to try out new things. For example, as a result of the programme, I am now using my personal experiences in my role as a Dimensions ‘reverse mentor’ to help tackle unconscious bias and improve BAME representation at a senior level.

"I have also taken on the ‘critical friend’ role in recruitment to share my perspective and ensure diverse representation. In this sense, the Aspire programme gave me the confidence I needed to make my voice heard and understand that what I have to say is valuable.”

Harnessing the full potential of a fulfilling career

People with learning disabilities or autism and their families are at the heart of everything we do at Dimensions.

With 87% of Dimensions’ support workers telling us their job has a special meaning or purpose, it is clear that social care can be a truly rewarding and fulfilling career.

 


Rachael Dodgson is Chief Executive of Dimensions