This year’s National Apprenticeship Week is the 15th annual celebration of apprenticeships, taking place between 7th-13th February 2022. As part of this celebration, Kiri Shaw, Embedding Change Officer for Leeds City Council and member of the Leeds I Care… Ambassador community, shares her experience of completing an apprenticeship and how this has supported her career in social care in Leeds.
I currently work as an Embedding Change Officer for Leeds City Council. This is a strategic role within the social work sphere, my colleagues and I are the link between the frontline services of occupational therapy and social work, and all the other agencies and bodies that work towards ensuring we are recording things in line with the law, particularly surrounding the Care Act.
I like how diverse my role is. It’s project based and I work across different teams which expands my learning experience and gives me more ideas of where my next career opportunities might come from. It also has the element of why I first joined the sector, and that’s to help people. Alongside this I am a weekend support worker which gives me insight into what’s going on at ground level, I still work directly with vulnerable people that need support.
I began my career in social care as an apprentice care assistant when I was 17. I started the apprenticeship after leaving college, as the traditional education route wasn’t motivating me. I wanted a career pathway into nursing that was more hands on and practical, and I started a full-time placement in a day service for adults with learning disabilities. At 18, I got my NVQ and then I applied for university. I did an advanced diploma in adult nursing but unfortunately, there were cutbacks made across the university, and I had to defer.
So, I took a year out. I worked for an agency as a support worker/care assistant in care homes where I found that I was really driven by social care. You are supporting people in a way that gives them dignity and autonomy – that is very rewarding. You can’t replace the human experience with a factory or a machine, it’s a much more important role than people sometimes feel it is. Following my year out, I applied for a full-time job in learning disability services with Leeds City Council’s in-house provider services, working in supported living. I then moved into the learning disability social work team as a Senior Business Support Assistant, worked up to Senior Business Support Officer, and then my dream job came up working in organisational and workforce development. I did a lot of community engagement with third sector providers and looked for inroads within our super low output areas, to support people in accessing training and employment in the sector.
I started out on an apprenticeship scheme. I gained so much experience and the training is funded by your employers, allowing you to grab opportunities when they come up. When you join an apprenticeship, you work with so many different people which allows you to develop connections with other professionals, and find inroads into other areas of the sector. It teaches you a lot about life – it gives you perspective. Some people just learn better by doing, and don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean you will do everything perfectly the first time, you’ll make mistakes, but you get to experience things which embed learning in a much more practical way. You also feel the human element of sharing experiences and getting advice from people who have done those jobs for a long time. You learn what not to do and think about where you could make a positive change. For me, doing an apprenticeship was a more well-rounded experience than the traditional education route.
What advice would I give to somebody starting out in an apprenticeship? Show up, show willing – you will get back what you put in. I worked hard and I looked for the opportunities – they are there. You don’t need to have all the answers straight away – keep asking questions, keep being curious, because if we don’t, nothing will ever change. We’ve come a long way to provide a better quality of care, support and improve general standards of living, but we’ve still got a long way to go. By taking on an apprenticeship in health or social care, you can help us get there.
The Leeds Health and Care Academy offers three collaborative apprenticeship programmes, Level 4 Data Analyst, Level 3 Team Leader and Level 4 Project Management. Click the links to find out more, or fill out this expression of interest form to enquire about securing a place on a future apprenticeship cohort. If you’d like to find out more about any of our apprenticeships, you can contact us via LHCA@nhs.net.