Celebrating National Apprenticeship Week

Posted: 6 February 2024 1:31 pm.

Alice Hardaker has kindly written about her experience as an apprentice with Stepping Stone Pojects as part of National Apprenticeship Week.

Let’s rewind….to 2022..

In March/April 2022 I saw an advertisement on a social media website regarding the “Get Rochdale Working” team-(who are a company based across the Rochdale Borough whom help and support individuals get into work, training and other opportunities) letting all individuals local to the area know that they now have a hub in Heywood and invited anybody who need help with employment or accessing services to attend the library in order to meet them and have a friendly discussion regarding ways they can help and the places they can signpost to.

Before this, I had been unemployed for over 7 years, apart from occasional Christmas work, and my mental health was bad due to severe anxiety and this meant I avoided other individuals putting me into a constant cycle of anxiety, worry and avoiding people/places/things. When I met the Get Rochdale Working team, they were worried that I had been out of work for such a long period of time and thought it might mean I would have to start off by volunteering or completing a traineeship in order to add something to my CV. At this time, there was also a company called New Pioneers working out of the same area and they asked me if I would like to have a chat with them, so I did. New Pioneers Project is a company whom are funded by the council and their main aims are to get people back into work who are NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training). However, they take a different approach to their support and look for high quality jobs and opportunities that individuals want to do regardless of past training or qualifications.

After being involved with New Pioneers Project for a couple of weeks, one thing that stood out to them was my written work and they decided to employ me to work one day a week to create their monthly newsletter. They thought a job in administration would be good for me and we looked for jobs, training, and completed confidence courses. New Pioneers Project also provided me with clothes vouchers in order to be able to get suitable interview wear. I had had several interviews with different companies but never got past the interview stage. I was aware that due to my anxiety I may not be giving the best interview or first impression.

In October 2022, I was made aware by a broker at New Pioneers, whom also works in marketing at Rochdale Training that Stepping Stone Projects were looking for a few new apprentices to start within the next month. I applied for this position and was told I had been accepted for a group interview, this made me nervous and I was concerned I wouldn’t be loud or direct enough to be noticed, however I enjoyed the alternative interview process and speaking to different colleagues from SSP really gave me a good insight into how the company is ran. About 45 minutes after I finished the interview I was told they wanted to offer me the apprenticeship, which was really surprising to me, as an individual with social anxiety, however I was told that everyone who interviewed me said they liked how I came across.

After this interview there was around 3 weeks before I started my induction with SSP, I spent this time learning about the organization and refreshing my computer and literacy skills. After two weeks of induction I started as an apprentice in one of the supported accommodation sites in Heywood, called Ashburn House, here I met the Housing Support worker who was based here and all the staff on the floating support service, all of whom were very kind and welcoming to me.

As time progressed during my apprenticeship and I learned how to complete new things such as taking minutes, streamlining existing ideas, and how to complete health and safety checks. I felt very happy that I could easily ask for help from my colleagues around me and this increased my knowledge along and eased my anxiety problems a little. I got to attend interesting training and understand what the expectations are from the company and how to deliver them to a high standard. I felt like the team around me really cared about each other and got on very well, this is so important as challenging behavior or situations could have affected any of us at any point. I enjoyed my entire time working at Ashburn House and there is nothing I would change.

Very recently, I attended an interview for a permanent role within the Stepping Stone organization, this was based somewhere else from where I completed my apprenticeship and I really did not want to leave. However, in my new role I can now utilize all of the skills and behaviors I developed within my apprenticeship with a different service. I do not believe I would be in this position if I did not attend the alternative interview and be around very kind and supportive individuals within my workplace. I believe I have become more ambitious and aim to see what various roles are like within SSP by further educating myself via various methods including training.

Although I still struggle a little bit with my mental health, I am aware that I have a good support network at SSP whom I can inform if I have any problems and we can work together in order to find a solution. My manager at Ashburn House was a great individual and I could approach him about anything, he is a very kind and compassionate individual and this just goes to show how SSP are great at getting the best colleagues for numerous roles. I would love to work at Ashburn House again if I was given the opportunity.

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