Team member spotlight
Julie Atkins, Senior Project Lead (and P/T saxophonist!)
My teammates at Care City tease me, as I am always learning something new, keen to develop additional skills, which have led me to take up the art of cartoon drawing, saxophone playing and clowning around (quite literally – I was in the Jackson Lane Community Centre Community Circus). But it’s this thirst for knowledge and self-improvement that, at 61, has seen me embark on an 18-month Improvement Leadership Apprenticeship with NELFT. In addition to developing my Quality Improvement knowledge, there has been a benefit I did not foresee… that of enabling me to put myself in the shoes of apprentices that I am helping as part of my role at Care City as Project Lead for our Enablement Champion Apprenticeship programme. A programme which seeks to develop the skills of already experienced care staff in order for them, supported by health professionals, to act as experts on particular health issues and enhance the care available to care home residents.
So what is it that is attractive about apprenticeships? Many see them as a way for young people to kick start their careers, but as I and our cohort of Enablement Champions have proved, it’s also a way to further your career, learn new skills and build your network. Of course, let’s not forget that having course fees paid and time off to study is a very attractive and welcome incentive too.
When I left school at 18 I knew I wanted to work in Care. I had volunteered in a day service for people with learning disabilities throughout my teenage years and when a vacancy came up in Tunnel Avenue Training Centre for a day-care worker I applied and was successful. At 22 I then started working as a Residential Support Worker, keen to improve the lives of those I cared for, by finding ways to enable them to live more independently and live a fuller, more fun life. However, my employers identified this as me having anarchic tendencies, rather than embracing their organisational culture!
Opportunities for training were also limited in those days and when training, paid for by your employer was given, that resulted in a qualification, you had to pay back the money, if you were to leave that employment within a period of time, usually two years. Being a free spirit, I didn’t want to feel tied down to one organisation, although I continued working in residential care, in different settings, clocking up thirteen years as a Registered Care Manager.
As a Project Lead for the Programme, it’s been wonderful being able to see what goes on behind the scenes of developing apprenticeship opportunities. Working with the BHR CEPN to bring our initial ideas into reality, with the investment and support of Unique Training Solutions, Havering Social Care Academy, Skills for Care, NELFT, LBBD, London Borough of Havering and Redbridge and UCLPartners has been a challenging but hugely rewarding journey. Collaborating with these like-minded partners, all totally invested in designing a role and Level 4 apprenticeship training programme that creates career opportunities for highly valued care staff, that in turn, positively impacts the service user experience and increases the flexibility and resilience of our care workforce.
As a manager I would have loved to be able to support employees to grow into this role, working collaboratively with Allied Health colleagues, ensuring the best quality care is provided for care home residents. I think it would have been pretty cool to have worked in this role too! Perhaps my “anarchy tendencies” would be identified as simply trying to make changes for the better.
Apprenticeships are a great way to enhance one’s skills, practice and knowledge and I would like to end on something one of the Enablement Champions said… “Studying at my age is hard, but I know it will be worth it. I wanted to grab this opportunity because I know it will open doors for me that might not have been there for me before”.