Looking back on my first two months on the National Skills Academy graduate scheme, I can’t believe how much I’ve managed to fit in, and how quickly the time has gone.
My aim right from the start was to make the most of the experience, to learn and get involved with as much as possible, to ensure that I ended up more employable than when I started. I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been given so many different opportunities within my host organisation, mcch, a charitable organisation which runs services for people with learning disabilities, mental health needs and autism, and as such I already feel like this is the case!
When I started I was given a really comprehensive induction into the different areas of the organisation. There’s too much really to mention, but my personal highlight was spending a day at a social enterprise called Tuck by Truck in Aylesford, in Kent. Tuck by truck provides self-service snack trays for the workplace, giving people with learning disabilities the opportunity to gain real work experience, and paid employment. While I was there a service user was successful in gaining a paid position in a local business. It was really lovely being there to celebrate that success, and also see firsthand the really positive outcomes that can come from such schemes.
Now that my induction has finished, I’ve had the opportunity to take ownership of a variety of projects. Throughout the year I will be facilitating a group of service users called ‘SPECS’, who run conferences and events. I’ve also been looking at the variety of activities going on in a day centre, to begin to work out the outcomes of specific sessions, updated a plethora of risk assessments, and today I have literally just come back from a meeting at a library in Bexley, where service users with learning disabilities will be setting up and running a cafe.
I was a little apprehensive about starting the Institute of Leadership and Management qualification that is offered as part of the scheme, as I knew the coursework would be really different to anything which I had written before, (a degree in Theology, is perhaps not the most useful start for working in social care!) But all of the tutors have been supportive, and the feedback I got from the first assignment was really positive, so I’m feeling a bit happier about that side of things too.
I’ll be honest, there have been some challenges – working out where I sit in a large organisation, and what kind of authority I have to question and challenge things, is an ongoing personal struggle. But as clichéd as it sounds I am absolutely loving the experience so far, and only hope that as the year goes on I continue to grow and develop further. I guess, as this is a diary, all I can say is watch this space!
Natalie Crisp graduated from Durham University with a degree in theology in 2009 and subsequently worked in a respite centre for children with learning disabilities. She is a trainee on this year’s National Skills Academy for Social Care graduate training scheme.