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Social work apprenticeship - the journey so far!

"When the information about the Apprenticeship opportunity through Cheshire East was released I thought ‘This is it!’. I’d been waiting for this to come along for what feels like years. I couldn’t afford to go down the traditional route of full time university so the Apprenticeship option was the only one for me.

The selection process was tough, it was really hard work but worth all the effort. I was sat in the Health Visiting Office where I was helping them with assessments when I got the email to tell me I had been successful, and promptly burst into tears – tears of joy I might add!

There were people with lots of opinions, the most common one being ‘why would you want to be a Social Worker’ and comments like ‘you must be mad’. Before the course started I had moments where I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Was I going to be able to cope with the pressures of the course and academic requirements, alongside working full time, and having a family and a life outside of work? That first train journey to Staffs University was nerve racking, worrying about the smallest details even down to which platform I needed to be at, and how would I find the first lecture room!

Then finally, all of a sudden, I’m in a room, with 28 other Apprentices from across different Local Authorities, and it all made sense. The excitement and nervous energy, just the buzz in the room and even the sense of achievement – we’d made it to day 1 of our dream to pursue a career in Social Work! Nothing else mattered: home, work and life in general faded into the background as we listened to Sarah talk so positively about the course, about the profession and about the journey we were just beginning.

Fast forward to now which is the end of Module 1, start of Module 2. Our Apprenticeship experience so far has been unique given the current COVID 19 crisis. I’m working hard during the week in my day job supporting partner agencies to complete Early Help assessments, something I would predominately have done face to face, now all being done by phone and by email. I’ve been listening to and advising professionals who are worried about those children that just fly under the radar – its not safeguarding, but somethings not quite right. Their professional gut instincts telling them that some of those children may be at risk, but there’s no evidence and the protective factor that is school has been stripped away. Lots of our education colleagues are doing doorstep visits just so they can set eyes on these children and have some reassurance that they are OK, for now. The majority of them don’t receive any formal supervision so having me to advise and support them is crucial in helping them to provide the right support for families, and in reducing their own rising anxieties and worries.

I’m trying hard to stick to my ‘University’ days and to complete the portfolio for Module 1. We as a group are struggling with the lack of contact with each other – we were just beginning to recognise each other, learn names and job roles, family and life situations and suddenly it was all gone! It’s not like a full time course where you would quickly get to know everyone as you see them day in day out, we were still in this ‘getting to know people’ phase. Some of us are new to University; I last studied over 20 years ago in a very different subject so have lots of questions about the first module and the portfolio and quickly realised other people did too.

So we’ve set up a WhatsApp group, and we’re communicating and bonding well. When life resumes as normal we’ll hopefully be making up for lost time and celebrating the end of Module 1, maybe even Module 2 by that point in the way that students do, but with the financial benefit of being full time employed – with a few beers and some good food!"

Kate Mitchell, Social Work Apprentice, Cheshire East

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